Google Busted Spying on Safari Users

Google intentionally sidestepped privacy settings in Apple’s Safari Browser by using a backdoor to insert cookies that would allow Google to track users browsing habits. This was brought to light after the Wall Street Journal exposed the practice in an article that was posted Thursday night. After the posting of the article, Google said that they had immediately stopped usage of the technique.

Safari, which accounts for about 6% of desktop browsing and more than 50% of mobile browsing, is the only major browser to block so-called third-party cookies by default. When you visit a website, all browsers, including Safari, allow that site to put a small tracking file on your computer, which allows the site to identify a unique user, track what they’ve done and remember settings. However, many sites also have Facebook “Like” buttons, ads served by third parties, weather widgets powered by other sites or comment systems run by a third party.

Google said it used the backdoor so that it could place +1 buttons on ads it places around the web via its Adsense program, so that logged-in Google+ users could press the button to share an ad. Without the work-around, the button wouldn’t be able to tell Google which Google account to link the button to.

As for the repercussions this will have on Google, I have a feeling they will be hearing from the FTC quite soon.

Advertisements