Last week, Google settled a long-running class-action lawsuit by agreeing to a $5.5 million payment for ignoring the privacy settings used by Safari browser users. Silicon Beat reported:
"The lawsuit arose out of the 2012 discovery by a Stanford researcher that Google had used a workaround to track Safari users’ web browsing habits. Apple, which owns Safari, had built into it privacy controls that blocked certain cookies, small files that store information that can identify users or track their activities. Google used the improperly harvested user data to dramatically boost ad revenue, the lawsuit suggested. “Behaviorally targeted advertisements based on a user’s tracked internet activity generally sell for at least twice as much as non-targeted, run-of-network ads,” the suit said."
"After Google’s practice came to light, the company agreed to pay $17 million to state attorneys general over privacy violations, and another $22.5 million to the Federal Trade Commission for violating the terms of an earlier settlement. In both cases, Google denied any wrong-doing—an outcome an FTC Commissioner then described as “inexplicable.”
According to the settlement agreement:
"Plaintiffs centrally allege in the Complaint that Defendant Google circumvented Plaintiffs' Safari and Internet Explorer and defeated the default cookie settings of such browsers in violation of federal and state laws. More particularly, Plaintiffs allege that when Plaintiffs and Class Members visited a website containing an advertisement placed by certain Defendants in this case, tracking cookies were placed on Plaintiffs' computers that circumvented Plaintiffs' and Class Members' browser settings that blocked such cookies... The Settlement Class consists of all persons in the United States of America who used the Apple Safari or Microsoft Internet Explorer web browser and who visited a website from which a Doubleclick.net (Google's advertising serving service) from which cookies were placed by the means alleged in the Complaint..."
The terms of the settlement agreement require Google to make payments to counsel and to several nonprofit technology and privacy advocacy groups (instead of class members): the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, the Center for Democracy & Technology (Privacy and Data Project), Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, and the Center for Internet & Society at Stanford University (Consumer Privacy Project).
The technology giant paid $7 million in 2013 to 38 states to settle unauthorized wireless data collection by Google Streetview cars. Also in 2013, the company admitted its Android operating-system software included code by the NSA. In 2015, Google's holding company dropped the "Don't be evil" motto.
Do no wrong? Apparently, that ship has sailed and isn't returning. "Catch us if you can" might be a more accurate motto.