Google Settles, Agrees to Pay $17M to 37 U.S. States In Consumer Tracking Case

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Google settlementGoogle has reached a $17 million settlement with 37 states and the District of Columbia over online privacy allegations against consumers.

According to the allegations, people using Safari Web browser mistakenly thought their default settings would block Google from placing third-party advertising cookies (which enable the collection of information about consumers for advertising purposes). Even though Safari’s maker — Apple Inc. — prohibited the tracking without obtaining a person’s permission, Google’s DoubleClick advertising network found a way around that.

In a statement, Google said it works hard “to get privacy right” and has “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.”

As part of the settlement, Google said it will also improve consumer transparency. For example, it will try to streamline the information it provides to consumers regarding cookies, their purposes, and ways to manage Google’s products.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said that Google violated Web users’ privacy and trust. “Consumers should be able to know whether there are other eyes surfing the Web with them,” he said. (We tend to agree!)

But What Exactly Is Online Advertising?

Google, the world’s largest search engine, earned about $50 billion in 2012, mostly through advertising. The term “advertising” can be a confusing term. Have you ever considered how Google makes so much money?

As Private WiFi’s CEO Kent Lawson wrote two months ago, “you are the product. They track which websites you visit, create a profile based on these sites (and other offline information), and then turn around and sell this information to advertisers. In addition, your search history can reveal quite a bit about you. Do we really want huge companies to have this information to do with it what they please? Thankfully, those of us who don’t to be tracked online now have choices when it comes to search engines. Two of the most popular anonymous search engines are DuckDuckGo and Ixquick.”

Check out how those two search engines work, as well as how a personal VPN can make you anonymous online.

 

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Elaine Rigoli

Elaine Rigoli is PRIVATE WiFi’s manager of digital content strategy.