Google settles Safari cookie case for $17 million

News 19 Nov, 2013

Web giant did not admit to wrongdoing in settlement.

Google will fork out $17 million to settle allegations by 37 states and the District of Colombia that it secretly tracked Apple users by placing special digital files on the Safari web browser.

The deal  ends a nearly two-year probe by the states into allegations that Google bypassed the privacy settings of customers using Apple’s Safari browser by placing "cookies" into the browser.

Cookies are special files that allow websites and advertisers to identify individual surfers and track their browsing habits.

The Safari Web browser is used on iPhones, iPads and Macs automatically blocks third-party cookies, but Google altered the computer code of its cookies and was able to circumvent the blocks between June 2011 and February 2012, according to the states' allegations.

Google, which did not admit wrongdoing in the settlement, said on Monday that it has "taken steps to remove the ad cookies, which collected no personal information, from Apple's browsers."

The company agreed to pay $22 million in August 2012 to settle a probe by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission relating to the same matter.

Google, the world's most used internet search engine, generated revenue of some $50 billion in 2012, mostly through advertising.

Under the terms of Monday's deal, Google agreed not to use the type of code capable of overriding browser settings without user consent, unless for security , fraud or technical issues. It also agreed to provide consumers with more information about cookies for the next five years.