Google to pay $5.5 million for sneaking around Apple’s privacy settings to scoop user data

Perhaps if Google had taken its own “don’t be evil” motto to heart, it wouldn’t be on the hook for a $5.5 million settlement after sneaking around Apple’s privacy settings to plunder web browser Safari for user data.

Google agreed Monday to pay the settlement in a class action suit that accused it of “unfair, deceptive, and unlawful business practices.”

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.

Millions of people throughout the U.S. were affected by Google’s actions, the settlement agreement (posted by Fortune) said. However, members of the plaintiff class won’t receive settlement money – minus legal fees and settlement expenses, it’s to go to six technology and privacy groups including the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology and the Center for Internet & Society at Stanford.

Google declined to comment on the settlement. The involved parties had reached an agreement in June, and the deal was approved Aug. 29 by U.S. District Court in Delaware.


Photo: A man walks past a building on the Google campus in Mountain View in 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)



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