Google pays $18 million to settle tracking case

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Google pays $18 million to settle tracking case

Ends two-year investigation.

Google will pay US$17 million (A$18 million) to settle allegations by 37 US states and the District of Colombia that it secretly tracked web users by placing cookies on the web browsers of their smartphones.

The deal, announced today, ends a nearly two-year probe by the states into allegations Google bypassed the privacy settings of customers using Apple's Safari web browser by placing cookies -special files that allow websites and advertisers to identify individual web surfers and track their browsing habits - on the browser.

The Safari browser used on iPhones and iPads automatically blocks third-party cookies, but Google altered the computer code of its cookies and was able to circumvent the blocks between June 2011 and February 2012, according to the states' allegations.

Google, which did not admit wrongdoing in the settlement, said on Monday it has "taken steps to remove the ad cookies, which collected no personal information, from Apple's browsers."

The company agreed to pay US$22 million in August 2012 to settle a probe by the US Federal Trade Commission relating to the same matter.

Google, the world's No. 1 internet search engine, generated revenue of some US$50 billion in 2012, mostly through advertising.

Under the terms of Monday's deal, Google agreed not to use the type of code capable of overriding browser settings without user consent, unless for security, fraud or technical issues. It also agreed to provide consumers with more information about cookies for the next five years.

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