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A.G Announces Google to Pay State $467 Thousand in Multistate Settlement Over Tracking of Consumers

CONTACT: Ryan Kriger, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-3170

November 18, 2013

Attorney General William Sorrell announced today that his Office, along with the Attorneys General of 36 States and the District of Columbia, entered into a $17 million settlement with Google Inc. for bypassing security settings on Apple’s Safari web browser in 2011 and 2012. $467,000 of which will go to Vermont. “Privacy on the internet is an increasingly serious issue,” said Sorrell, “and attempts by companies to violate consumers’ privacy expectations in exchange for profit will not be tolerated in Vermont.”

“Cookies” are small files set in Web browsers that allow advertisers to gather information like consumers’ web surfing habits. Google’s DoubleClick advertising platform generates revenue through the placement of these cookies. Safari blocks third-party cookies by default, but from June 2011 through February 2012, Google altered its DoubleClick coding to bypass Safari’s privacy settings, without consumers’ knowledge or consent. Google disabled this coding method in February 2012 after the practice was widely reported on the Internet and in media.

The Attorneys General alleged that Google’s actions violated State consumer protection and related computer privacy laws by failing to inform Safari users that it was circumventing their privacy settings, and by representing on their websites that cookies were automatically blocked for Safari users. To resolve these allegations, Google has agreed to a penalty and comply with the following injunctive relief:

  • Not deploy the type of code used in this case to override a browser’s cookie blocking settings without the consumer’s consent unless it is necessary to do so in order to detect, prevent or otherwise address fraud, security or technical issues.
  • Not misrepresent or omit material information to consumers about how they can use any particular Google product, service, or tool to directly manage how Google places advertisements.
  • Improve the information it provides to consumers regarding cookies, their purposes, and how they can be managed by consumers using Google’s products, services and tools.
  • Maintain systems designed to ensure the expiration of the third-party cookies set on Safari web browsers while their default settings were circumvented.
  • Vermont was part of a ten-state executive committee led by Maryland. The Multistate also included the Offices of Attorney General for Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, 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, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

      Website consulting provided by The National Association of Attorneys General.