Google tries to end browser privacy violation lawsuit

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Google tries to end browser privacy violation lawsuit

Throws millions to make cookie ad tracking court case go away.

Google is trying again to end an advertisement tracking privacy violation court case brought against it in 2012, this time with a settlement offer of US$5.5 million (A$7.3 million).

At the heart of the legal action is Google's bypass of the default cookie settings in Apple's Safari for iOS and Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browsers. Cookies are small text files that web servers can place on site visitors' web browsers to record session and state information, among other things.

Users who had configured their browsers to block the placement of Google-owned DoubleClick ad-tracking cookies on their computers nevertheless found them on their machines.

A Stanford University graduate student discovered that Google had written special code to bypass the default cookie blocking privacy settings in Apple's Safari web browser in 2012.

The class action lawsuit was launched against Google soon after.

After four years of litigation, Google is now hoping that the US$5.5 million proposed settlement will end the court case. It has assured that DoubleClick will expire any cookies for users whose Safari browsers are set to block the ad-tracking files.

The money won't go to the plaintiffs in the class action court case given there are millions of individuals involved.

Instead, browser security and privacy organisations such as the Centre for Democracy & Technology, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and similar organisations at the universities of Stanford, Berkeley and Harvard, would benefit from the settlement.

Google has already paid US$17 million to 37 American states and the District of Columbia, and US$22.5 million to the consumer watchdog the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in fines.

Despite the payments, Google denies any wrongdoing, claiming the actions were unintentional and the result of a change in Safari that the company was not aware of.

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