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DC Joins Multi-State Settlement With Google to Stop Improper Tracking of Consumers Internet Use; DC to Receive $220,000

Monday, November 18, 2013

DC Joins Multi-State Settlement With Google to Stop Improper Tracking of Consumers Internet Use; DC to Receive $220,000

Contact: Ted Gest, (202) 727-6283

The District and 37 states have entered into a settlement with Google Inc. to help ensure that consumers know when advertisers’ “cookies” are placed on their computers’ browsers, DC Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan announced today.    

Use of Google’s search engine, the most popular on the Internet and other services is free. Although advertising is its primary source of revenue, Google offered users of its services the ability to prevent advertiser tracking of their Internet use by choosing certain settings in Google’s online ad management program. The default setting on Apple’s Safari browser already blocked the installation of advertisers’ cookies, and Google told consumers using Safari’s default setting they did not need to use Google’s on-line ad manager to block cookies.

The Attorneys General alleged that Google’s statement to Safari users was misleading because Google circumvented Safari’s default settings and placed cookies on the computers of Safari users without their knowledge, in violation of consumer protection and computer privacy laws.

In order to resolve these allegations, Google has agreed:

  • Not to deploy the type of code used 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 to misrepresent or omit material information to consumers about how they can use any particular Google product, service or tool to directly manage how advertisements reach their browsers.
  • To improve the information it provides to consumers regarding cookies, their purposes, and how they can be managed by consumers using Google’s products or services and tools.
  • To maintain systems designed to ensure the expiration of third-party cookies that were set on Safari web browsers while their default settings were circumvented.

Google has also agreed to pay the District and the settling states a total of $17 million. The District’s settlement share will be $220,000.

“We will vigorously enforce the District’s consumer protection law against companies that mislead consumers regarding their privacy choices,” Attorney General Nathan said.