Photo via ArsTechnica
Last week, however, Stanford grad student Jonathan Mayer posted a report that four advertising companies circumvented Apple's cookie blocking feature; The Wall Street Journal independently confirmed. The four companies are Google, Vibrant Media, WPP's Media Innovation Group and Gannett's PointRoll. (View CBS News video: Google Under Fire for Secretly Tracking Users.)
Of the four companies, only Google claims it did not know its specialized cookies also opened the browser to other tracking cookies which would have been otherwise rejected; Google says it has "started removing these advertising cookies from Safari browsers." Google began using specialized temporary cookies in Safari browsers last year so that people signed into Google Accounts get personalized services (e.g. +1) they had requested. You can read the full Google statement on ArsTechnica (here) and rebuttals from the Stanford researcher on The San Francisco Chronicle.
Safari users will find a few suggestions in How to Get Out of Tracking on Safari.
New government investigations may occur.
- Representatives Edward Markey (D-MA) and Joe Barton (R-TX), co-chairmen of the Bi-Partisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, and Cliff Stearns (R-FL), chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations, asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate whether Google's Safari issue violates its recent settlement (see Decision and Order) with the agency; they requested a response by March 9, 2012.
- News outlets report Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV (D-WV) chairman of the Senate Comittee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, said in a statement:
"This practice may have violated the company's own stated privacy practices (new here). I fully intend to look into this matter and determine the extent to which the practice was used by Google and other third parties to circumvent consumer choice." (USA Today)
- SiliconValley.com reports two of the four advocacy groups criticizing the breach of Safari -- Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT), Association for Competitive Technology (ACT), Consumer Watchdog and Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) seek FTC actions.
- Consumer Watchdog requested immediate FTC action against Google, charging unfair and deceptive practices "violated peoples online privacy choices and falsely advised them about how to make opt-out choices" and disregarded the recent FTC (Google Buzz) agreement.
- USA Today reports the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) also wrote to the FTC on Friday urging enforcement of the consent order asserting that Google
"...took elaborate measures to circumvent the consent order Safari privacy safeguards, and it benefited from the misrepresentations by the commercial value it surreptitiously obtained."
You might like:
Jonathan Mayer's report - Stanford Law School
Google's iPhone Tracking - The Wall Street Journal
Google's Privacy Invasion: It's Your Fault - Informationweek
Google Circumvents Safari Protections -- This is Why We Need Do Not Track - Electronic Frontier Foundation
How to Get Out of Tracking on Safari - The Wall Street Journal
Google sued by Safari user over privacy flap - The Washington Post
How long does it take for the FTC to investigate a company? - Christopher Soghoian via Slight Paranoia
Links Updated February 24, 2012