New Jersey has joined 36 states and the District of Columbia in a $17 million settlement with Internet giant Google.

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Acting State Attorney General John Hoffman said the agreement resolves allegations Google unlawfully circumvented the default privacy settings in Safari Web browsers.

“We take seriously the issue of online privacy, and are committed to upholding laws designed to protect New Jersey citizens while they use the Internet,” said Hoffman. “Today's settlement with Google should serve as another reminder that we will not tolerate conduct that involves circumventing browser privacy settings without the consumer’s knowledge or consent.”

There are small files set in Internet users’ Web browsers that allow third-party advertisers to gather information about those users including in some cases their Web surfing habits. The files are called "cookies." Apple’s Safari Web browser blocks third-party cookies via its default privacy settings including those used by Google’s DoubleClick advertising platform to track a consumer’s browsing history.

From June 1, 2011 through Feb. 15, 2012, Google allegedly altered the coding of its DoubleClick platform to circumvent the default privacy settings of Safari browsers. The altered code allowed third-party advertisers who used Google DoubleClick to get around Safari’s privacy controls and plant cookies without the computer operator’s knowledge or consent.

“Consumers have every right to surf the Web without fear that businesses are bypassing their privacy settings through technical tricks," said Hoffman.

The State’s share of the Google settlement is approximately $655,000, which will be used to fund consumer protection programs.