November 18, 2013
Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane announces $484,000 recovered as result of multi-state settlement with Google over tracking of consumers
HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane today announced Pennsylvania will receive $484,000 as a result of a settlement her office reached with Google Inc. for circumventing Safari privacy settings. Along with the attorneys general of 36 other states and the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania entered into a $17-million settlement with Google Inc. 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 that it 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," Attorney General Kane said. "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.
Google has agreed to a $17-million settlement and injunctive relief that requires the following:
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.