Report: Google circumvented Apple Safari privacy protections

News 17 Feb, 2012

The tech giant is accused of writing code to get around cookie protection in Safari.

Google has been accused of getting around privacy protections in Apple’s Safari browser, tracking users’ behaviour without telling them, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Safari is designed to block such tracking by default, but specially-crafted cookies allowed Google to watch over user activity, the report claimed.

That code was found by Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer, but it was technical adviser to the WSJ Ashkan Soltani who found that ads on 22 of the top 100 websites ran code on a test computer. Ads on 23 of those sites installed the cookies on a Safari browser on an iPhone.

We used known Safari functionality to provide features that signed-in Google users had enabled.

Google has now disabled to code after being contacted by the WSJ. The company claimed the paper had “mischaracterised what happened and why.”

“We used known Safari functionality to provide features that signed-in Google users had enabled. It's important to stress that these advertising cookies do not collect personal information,” an official statement read.

Microsoft jumped on the report, claiming it was “not new.”

“The novelty here is that Google apparently circumvented the privacy protections built into Apple’s Safari browser in a deliberate, and ultimately, successful fashion,” a blog post from the company’s Ryan Galvin read.

Galvin went on to boast about the protections Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9 offered.

Other major Web 2.0 companies have come under fire for their privacy practices this month. Twitter admitted it was hoarding iPhone users’ contact details earlier this week.

Read on for a comment piece asking is there anyone who we can trust online now?