Ad firm allegedly breaches Internet privacy

By Mark Payne | Dec 12, 2014

Maryland Attorney General Douglas Ganser   Maryland Attorney General's Office

A digital ad firm will pay a $750,000 settlement for allegedly violating laws that protect consumers' Internet privacy settings, Maryland Attorney General Douglas Ganser announced on Thursday.

A subsidiary of Gannett Corp., PointRoll, Inc., allegedly violated the consumer privacy laws by placing cookies on some of Apple's Safari web browsers. Cookies track a user's Internet browsing history. The information is then used by advertisers to provide specific advertising to users. Users, however, can block cookies in their privacy settings.

PointRoll allegedly circumvented users' privacy settings to place the cookies anyways.

"Consumers should be able to surf the Internet with the expectation that their privacy will not be compromised," Gansler said. "This settlement reinforces our commitment to protecting Internet privacy and going after companies that disregard it."

The cookies allegedly were placed on Safari browsers on iPhones and iPads between Dec. 13 2011 and Feb. 15, 2012.

Maryland will receive $110,000 of the settlement. The ad company also must change its policies to ensure that it doesn't use technology to override a user's settings and has to develop a training program to teach employees the importance of Internet privacy.

The multi-state settlement agreement also included Florida, New Jersey, New York, Illinois and Connecticut.

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