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Google has agreed on Monday to pay $17 million to 37 states and the District of Columbia to settle the charges of unauthorized online tracking of Safari browser users in 2011 and 2012. The states had alleged that Google, in a serious violation of consumer privacy and protection laws, secretly stored web tracking cookies by exploiting a technological loophole in Apple's Safari browser, which doesn't allow third-party cookies by default.
These cookies recorded web surfing habits of Safari users and helped Google present targeted ads to them.
This is the second time Google has been fined by US authorities over privacy violations of Safari users. Last year, the company agreed to pay $22.5 million in order to settle similar charges from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This is the highest penalty the FTC has collected for a civil violation.
Google did not admit to any wrongdoing as part of the settlement. The company said the cookie issue was accidental and that it was corrected as soon as it was made public. Also, no personal information was collected from Apple's browser, the company claimed.
The $17 million fine over 'Safari-gate' is a very tiny fraction of Google's annual revenue, which touched $50 billion last year. The company has earlier been accused of various privacy breaches including unauthorized data collection by Street View cars, wiretapping Gmail inboxes, and more.