Pennsylvania will receive $484,000 as a result of a settlement with Google Inc. for circumventing Safari privacy settings.
The settlement was announced Monday by state Attorney General Kathleen Kane.
Along with the attorneys general of 36 other states and the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania entered into a $17-million settlement with Google concerning its setting of cookies on certain Safari web browsers during 2011 and 2012.
The attorneys general allege that Google’s circumvention of the default privacy settings in Safari, for blocking third-party cookies, violates state consumer protection and related computer privacy laws.
The states claim that Google failed to inform Safari users that it was circumventing their privacy settings and misrepresented that third-party cookies were blocked for Safari users.
“In an era of escalating concerns over consumers’ privacy on the Internet, it is absolutely essential for firms to make true, complete disclosure of how they will use, gather and disseminate user information,” said Kane in a news release.
“I am proud to have worked across state and party lines to send a clear message to Internet firms across the spectrum that consumers and their privacy must be respected.”
Google operates the most popular search engine on the Internet.
Use of the search engine is free, so Google generates revenue primarily through advertising.
Apple’s Safari web browser is set by default to block third-party cookies, including cookies set by DoubleClick to track a consumer’s browsing history.
From June 1, 2011 until February 15, 2012, Google altered its DoubleClick coding to circumvent those default privacy settings on Safari, without consumers’ knowledge or consent, enabling it to set DoubleClick cookies on consumers’ Safari Web browsers.
Google disabled this coding method in February 2012 after the practice was widely reported on the Internet and in the media.
Keane's office reported that Google has agreed to a $17-million settlement and injunctive relief that requires the following:
* Obtain consumer’s consent before it deploys the type of code used to override a browser’s cookie blocking settings, unless it is necessary to do so in order to detect, prevent or otherwise address fraud, security or technical issues.
* Provide material information to consumers about how they can use any particular Google product, service, or tool to directly manage how Google serves advertisements to their browsers.
* Improve the information it provides to consumers regarding cookies, their purposes, and how they can be managed by consumers using Google’s products or services and tools.
* Maintain systems designed to ensure the expiration of the third-party cookies set on Safari web browsers while their default settings had been circumvented.
The multi-state settlement also includes the offices of Attorney General for Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.