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Google settles with states in Safari-tracking case for $17M

Sidestepping third-party tracking cookie blockers in Apple's Safari browser is a costly dance, as Google agrees to pay another $17 million in the case.

Google agreed Monday to pay $17 million to settle claims from 36 states and the District of Columbia that the company violated user privacy when circumventing the tracking cookie blockers in Apple's Safari browser.

The fine follows revelations that Google installed tracking cookies on Safari users' computers without permission to assist its DoubleClick advertising business, bypassing Safari's default settings that block third-party tracking cookies.

Google has denied that the violations occurred intentionally, but agreed to the fines nonetheless.

The fine follows the company's year-old settlement with the Federal Trade Commission on the same matter, which cost Google $22.5 million.

The settlement includes the District of Columbia and the following states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, 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.

The nearly $40 million in cumulative fines levied against Google for the tracking cookie-related privacy violations have been costly, which The Associated Press estimates earned the company only $4 million. The settlement is a public relations black eye for Google, but keep in mind that Google earns billions of dollars per year.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement that people should be able to know when they're being tracked online.

"By tracking millions of people without their knowledge, Google violated not only their privacy, but also their trust," he said.

In addition to the fine, Google has agreed to abide by several policy remedies designed to prevent the problem from reoccurring, including not deploying the type of code used to override the browser's cookie-blocking settings; not misleading its customers about how they can control how Google serves ads on Web sites; improving users' ability to learn about and control tracking cookies; and not interfering with Safari's third-party tracking cookie blocker.