Attorney General Masto Joins $17 Million Multistate Settlement With Google Regarding Tracking of Consumers

November 18, 2013

Nevada to Receive More Than $268K

    Carson City, NV – Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto announced today that her Office, along with the Attorneys General of 36 other States and the District of Columbia, entered into a settlement with Google Inc. concerning its setting of cookies—cookies are small files set in consumers’ Web browsers—on certain Safari Web browsers during 2011 and 2012.

      “I believe Nevadans have a right to know how they are being tracked by a company,” said Masto. “My colleagues and I from 36 other states got together to correct this. Google mislead consumers, which is a violation of one’s privacy.”

        Through installation of an advertising cookie opt-out plugin, Google had been offering consumers the ability to opt out of having third-party advertising cookies set on their browsers. On its Web page describing that plugin, Google represented to consumers using Apple’s Safari Web browser (“Safari users”) that “Safari is set by default to block all third-party cookies. If you have not changed those settings, this option effectively accomplishes the same thing as setting the opt-out cookie.” This statement was misleading to Safari users because it suggested they would not receive third-party cookies, but afterward Google took active steps to circumvent Safari’s default settings for the purpose of setting third-party cookies. By circumventing Safari’s default settings, Google placed cookies on the computers of Safari users without their knowledge or consent.

          Google operates the most popular search engine on the Internet. Use of the search engine is free, so Google generates revenue primarily through advertising. Through its DoubleClick advertising platform, Google sets third-party cookies that enable it to gather information about those consumers, including, depending on the type of cookie, their Web surfing habits. Apple’s Safari Web browser is set by default to block third-party cookies, including cookies set by DoubleClick to track a consumer’s browsing history.

            However, from June 1, 2011 until February 15, 2012, Google altered its DoubleClick coding to circumvent the Safari default privacy settings, without consumers’ knowledge or consent, enabling it to set DoubleClick cookies on consumers’ Safari Web browsers. Google disabled this coding method in February 2012 after the practice was widely reported on the Internet and in media.

              The Attorneys General allege that Google’s circumvention of the default privacy settings in Safari for blocking third-party cookies violates State consumer protection and related computer privacy laws. To resolve these allegations, Google agreed to pay the Attorneys General $17 million and has also agreed to injunctive relief that requires it to do the following:

              • Not deploy the type of code used here 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 serves advertisements to their browsers.
              • 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.
              • Maintain systems designed to ensure the expiration of the third-party cookies set on Safari Web browsers while their default settings had been circumvented.

                Nevada’s share of the settlement is $268,443, which will go to the state’s general fund.

                  Maryland led a ten-state executive committee, which included Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Vermont and Washington, and guided this investigation. The Multistate Settlement also included the Offices of Attorney General for Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, District of Columbia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

                    Click here to read the assurance of voluntary compliance.


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