[LINK] Yet More Meddling by Google

Roger Clarke Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Sat Feb 18 09:53:29 AEDT 2012

[Yet more meddling by Google, who have yet again failed to come clean 
about their meddling until they've been caught out.  Hundreds of 
articles around the world on it, all prettymuch derivative from 
Stanford and WSJ:

Google's iPhone Tracking
Web Giant, Others Bypassed Apple Browser Settings for Guarding Privacy
The Wall Street Journal
17 February 2012

Google Inc. and other advertising companies have been bypassing the 
privacy settings of millions of people using Apple Inc.'s Web browser 
on their iPhones and computers-tracking the Web-browsing habits of 
people who intended for that kind of monitoring to be blocked.

[Basically, it appears that Google was leveraging an insecurity 
feature (i.e. an intentional insecurity rather than a bug) created by 
Apple in its Safari browser.

[I'm close to giving up on Safari for other reasons.  The old version 
I'm stuck with under OSX 10.4 can't cope with the massive traffic 
that assaults the browser from third-party 'syndicated' web-sites, 
and is hopelessly slow.]

Google vows to quit stalking
The Australian
February 18, 2012 12:00AM
GOOGLE Australia has moved to appease Australia's privacy watchdog 
after its US parent was caught tracking millions of Apple customers 
around the web without their knowledge.

A Wall Street Journal investigation published in the US yesterday 
revealed Google and other advertising companies had routinely 
bypassed privacy controls Apple built into its Safari web browser to 
stop its customers being tracked online. Safari is used in millions 
of iPhones, iPads and Apple computers.

[Remainder blocked by paywall.]

Google bypassed Apple privacy settings
February 18, 2012
The Sydney Morning Herald, copied from AFP, copied from WSJ

Google and other online advertisers have bypassed the privacy 
settings of an Apple web browser on iPhones and computers to survey 
millions of users, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The Journal said on Friday the companies used a special code that 
tricks Apple's Safari software into letting them monitor the browsing 
habits of many users.

Safari - the most widely used browser on mobile devices and the 
default browser on iPhones and Mac laptops - is designed to block 
such tracking by default, the Journal said.

The Journal said Google disabled the code after the newspaper 
contacted it and that Google removed a message on its website saying 
users could rely on Safari to prevent the search giant from tracking 

It quoted Google as saying: "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."

The Journal quoted an Apple official as saying the company was 
"working to put a stop" to the circumvention of the privacy settings.

The code was first spotted by Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer and 
independently confirmed by Ashkan Soltani, a technical adviser to the 

Google and Apple could not immediately be reached for comment.



Date: Sat, 18 Feb 2012 09:29:07 +1100
Subject: An update from Google
From: Ishtar Vij <ishtarv at google.com>

Hi there

You may see this press coverage this morning.



The Wall Street Journal mischaracterizes 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.

Unlike other major browsers, Apple's Safari browser blocks 
third-party cookies by default. However, Safari enables many web 
features for its users that rely on third parties and third-party 
cookies, such as "Like" buttons. Last year, we began using this 
functionality to enable features for signed-in Google users on Safari 
who had opted to see personalized ads and other content--such as the 
ability to "+1" things that interest them.

To enable these features, we created a temporary communication link 
between Safari browsers and Google's servers, so that we could 
ascertain whether Safari users were also signed into Google, and had 
opted for this type of personalization. But we designed this so that 
the information passing between the user's Safari browser and 
Google's servers was anonymous--effectively creating a barrier 
between their personal information and the web content they browse.

However, the Safari browser contained functionality that then enabled 
other Google advertising cookies to be set on the browser. We didn't 
anticipate that this would happen, and we have now started removing 
these advertising cookies from Safari browsers. It's important to 
stress that, just as on other browsers, these advertising cookies do 
not collect personal information.

Users of Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome were not affected. Nor 
were users of any browser (including Safari) who have opted out of 
our interest-based advertising program using Google's Ads Preferences 


Ishtar Vij | Policy Counsel | 
<mailto:ishtarv at google.com>ishtarv at google.com | +61 2 9374 4523
Public Policy and Government Affairs
Google Australia and New Zealand

Roger Clarke                                 http://www.rogerclarke.com/
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd      78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
                    Tel: +61 2 6288 1472, and 6288 6916
mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au                http://www.xamax.com.au/

Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Law               University of NSW
Visiting Professor in Computer Science    Australian National University

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