RALEIGH, N.C. -- N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper said Monday that Google has agreed to pay a $17 million settlement to North Carolina and 37 other states.
The company also agreed to make changes to how it tracks consumers' Internet surfing.
According to a news release, the settlement resolves issues with Google Inc. concerning its setting of cookies - small files that can be used to track a user's web browsing activity - on certain Safari Web browsers from June 1, 2011 until Feb. 15, 2012.
"People rely more and more on the Internet to communicate, find information, and do business, so it's critical that companies be straight with consumers when it comes to online privacy," Cooper said in a statement.
Attorney generals from the affected states said Google altered its DoubleClick coding to bypass default privacy settings on Safari, enabling it to set DoubleClick cookies on consumers' browsers. Google disabled this coding method in February 2012 after the practice was widely reported on the Internet and in media.
Cooper and the other attorneys generals said Google violated consumer protection and computer privacy laws by misleading consumers and failing to inform them that it was circumventing their privacy settings. To resolve these allegations, Google has agreed to pay the participating states $17 million, including $427,854.86 to North Carolina to be used for consumer protection purposes.
To prevent similar problems in the future, Google has also agreed to:
- Not use the type of code used here to override a browser's cookie blocking settings without the consumer's consent, unless necessary to address fraud, security or technical issues.
- Not misrepresent or omit material information about how consumers can use any Google product, service, or tool to manage how Google serves advertisements to their browsers.
- Improve the information it provides to consumers regarding cookies, their purposes and how they can be managed using Google's tools.
- Maintain systems designed to ensure that any third-party cookies set on Safari browsers while their default settings were circumvented have expired.
Read full copy of settlement