Google to pay states $17 million over online tracking

Google has entered a $17 million settlement with 37 states over complaints about the company’s online tracking of users.

The states claim that Google violated state consumer protection and privacy laws by circumventing privacy protections in Safari, the Web browser tied to Apple devices, including iPhones, iPads and Mac computers.

Safari blocks third-party cookies — such as those left by Google’s advertising platform DoubleClick to track Search users — by default. Google circumvented that blocking between June 2011 and February 2012 but failed to inform Safari users that they were being tracked, the states said.

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Last year, Google settled with the Federal Trade Commission for $22.5 million over similar charges.

"Consumers should be able to know whether there are other eyes surfing the web with them,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement announcing the settlement. 

“By tracking millions of people without their knowledge, Google violated not only their privacy, but also their trust.”

In addition to paying out $17 million, Google said it will not use that type of code to circumvent browser privacy settings as a part of the settlement.

Additionally, the company has agreed to better educate users on its online tracking and ensure that the cookies placed on Safari browsers expire.

In a statement, a Google spokeswoman said the company is “pleased to have worked with the state attorneys general to reach this agreement."

"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,” the spokeswoman said.