According to an eye-opening new report from the Wall Street Journal, Google used special code as a means to work around user privacy settings established by millions of iPhone owners and desktop users running Safari.
The Wall Street Journal revealed that Google used code that “tricks” Safari into letting the search giant monitor user behaviors. This code essentially circumvents Safari’s default security settings which restrict such tracking.
The Google code was spotted by Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer and independently confirmed by a technical adviser to the Journal, Ashkan Soltani, who found that ads on 22 of the top 100 websites installed the Google tracking code on a test computer, and ads on 23 sites installed it on an iPhone browser.
“The technique,” the report adds, “reaches far beyond those websites, however, because once the coding was activated, it could enable Google tracking across the vast majority of websites. Three other online-ad companies were found using similar techniques: Vibrant Media Inc., WPP PLC’s Media Innovation Group LLC and Gannett Co.’s PointRoll Inc.”
With regard to Google, this scandal and its associated facts seem to contradict Google’s own instructions to Safari users on how to avoid tracking.
“Until recently,” the WSJ confirms, “one Google site told Safari users they could rely on Safari’s privacy settings to prevent tracking by Google.”
Google apparently removed that language from the site last week.
Google maintains that the WSJ has not presented the story in a fair and balanced manner.
“The Journal mischaracterizes what happened and why,” Google said in a statement. “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.”