Google on Monday, as part of a Safari privacy lawsuit settlement deal, has agreed to pay $17 million to 37 US states and the District of Colombia. The search engine giant was accused of secretly tracking web users’ activity by placing special digital files and cookies on the smartphone’s web browsers.
The lawsuit against Google was filed two years ago when the states made allegations that the tech giant bypassed users’ privacy settings by placing special “cookies” in users’ Safari browsers. Cookies are files which allow identification of individual web users by websites and advertisers and allow for track of their browsing habits.
According to the lawsuit, Google did not ask for permission from the visitors for tracking, and also did not inform them that they were using some kind of tracking method even where users had already specified that they did not allow for any kind of tracking.
“Consumers should be able to know whether there are other eyes surfing the web with them,” said Eric Schneiderman, New York Attorney General. “By tracking millions of people without their knowledge, Google violated not only their privacy, but also their trust”, Schneiderman added.
On Monday, Google, which claimed of no wrong doing in the entire matter, said that “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.”
As per the terms of Monday’s deal, Google promised not to override any web browser’s cookie blocking features without users’ consent, unless tracking is required for security, fraud or technical issues. Also, Google promised to provide more detailed information about how cookies work and how to use them to consumers.
Last year in August 2012, the company agreed to pay $22 million to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to settle a probe relating to the same matter.