Cookies will cost Google $17 million in settlement and we're not talking about fortune cookies here. The search engine giant has entered into an agreement, Monday, with the District of Columbia and 37 states to settle an investigation on the unauthorized use of tracking cookies between 2011 and 2012 on computers with Safari web browsers.
Google also agreed to have a special cookies page until 2018 and avoid statements that may mislead end-users about online tracking.
The company paid the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) $22.5 million in 2012 for the same issue. However, even after entering into an agreement with FTC in October 2011, Google had used tracking cookies or delivered ads to Safari browsers.
Google was able to circumvent the privacy settings of Apple's Safari that are intended to prevent having third-party cookies. The company used invisible web forms to make the browser believe that users interacted with ads by Google, thereby allowing cookies to be attached to their devices. The trick was discovered by a Stanford University graduate student.
"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," said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in a statement.
"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," Schneiderman said.
New York will be receiving $899,580 of the said settlement amount.
Besides New York, the settlement will be divided among the following states: District of Columbia, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, 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, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington.
Google has not acknowledged any wrongdoing.
"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," a Google spokesperson said.