Google has been forced to pay $17m (£10.5m) for tracking Apple’s Safari browser users without their permission.
At issue were advertising cookies that Google placed on the computers of Safari users in the US, who visited sites within Google’s DoubleClick advertising network.
Google, however, wrongly told Safari users they would be opted out of such tracking thanks to Safari’s default settings. The search giant also said it was a member of the Network Advertising Initiative, which requires firms to disclose their data collection and use practices.
Under the new settlement with 37 US states and the District of Columbia prevents Google from installing cookies on any browser unless it has gained user consent.
The news comes more than a year after the Federal Trade Commission reached a similar, $22.5 million (£13.97m) settlement with Google.
Third-party cookies are used by ad companies such as ad company DoubleClick to deliver personalised ads, but have caused concern over their ability to track users’ browsing habits across the web.
The states claimed that Google used the method to install cookies DoubleClick on Safari browsers between 1 June, 2011, until 15 February, 2012 without consumers’ knowledge or consent.
They also claimed Google deceived consumers by telling them that Safari’s default settings would block third-party cookies.
“Google represented that consumers could avoid third-party cookies being placed in their Safari Web browsers simply by relying on the browser’s default settings,” Connectictut attorney general George Jepsen said.
As part of the deal, Google has pledged not to override a browser’s cookie-blocking settings without consent or misrepresent how consumers can use or manage Google’s tracking tools. The search giant will also improve the information it provides to consumers about cookie tracking and delete cookies that were gathered during the time period that Google ignored Safari settings.
The states said that the move violated state consumer protection and related computer privacy law.
According to the FTC, Google’s actions did not violate US law, but they did violate a March 2011 deal over Google’s Buzz program that required Google to implement privacy safeguards, submit to regular audits, and banned it from future privacy misrepresentations.
Read the official statement on the ruling here