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Google to pay $17 mn in privacy settlement

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Google has agreed to pay $17 million to settle an investigation by US states into its use of unauthorized tracking software on Apple Safari Web browsers, officials said Monday.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the multistate agreement on Google's "unauthorized placement of cookies on computers using Apple Safari Web browsers during 2011 and 2012."

Google last year paid a $22.5 million fine to the US Federal Trade Commission on the same issue. The FTC said Google had agreed with the commission in October 2011 not to place tracking cookies or deliver targeted ads to Safari users, but then went ahead and did so.

The latest settlement includes 37 states and the federal District of Columbia. New York will receive $899,580, Schneiderman said.

"Consumers should be able to know whether there are other eyes surfing the web with them. By tracking millions of people without their knowledge, Google violated not only their privacy, but also their trust," Schneiderman said.

"We must give consumers the reassurance that they can browse the Internet safely and securely. My office will continue to protect New Yorkers from any attempts to deliberately expose their personal data."

The statement said Google altered its coding to circumvent privacy settings on Safari, without consumers' knowledge or consent.

Google also agreed not to deploy the type of code to override a browser's cookie blocking settings in the future without consent unless it is needed to detect or prevent fraud or security issues.

A Google spokesperson confirmed the agreement and said in a statement: "We work hard to get privacy right at Google and have taken steps to remove the ad cookies, which collected no personal information, from Apple's browsers. We're pleased to have worked with the state attorneys general to reach this agreement."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131118/google-pay-17-mn-privacy-settlement