[LINK] Google sued by Safari user for bypassing privacy controls

Jan Whitaker jwhit at janwhitaker.com
Sun Feb 19 11:09:40 AEDT 2012

Google sued by Safari user over privacy flap


By Phil Milford and Jef Feeley, Published: February 18 | Updated: 
Sunday, February 19, 6:06 AM

Feb. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Google Inc. officials were sued for violating 
users' privacy rights on Apple Inc.'s Safari Web browser by bypassing 
computer settings designed to block monitoring of consumers' online activity.

Google, the world's biggest Internet-search company, has been dodging 
privacy settings in Safari, which serves as the primary Web browser 
on Apple's iPhone and iPad products, lawyers for an Illinois man who 
uses the Safari browser said in a lawsuit filed today in federal 
court in Delaware.

"Google's willful and knowing actions violated" federal wiretapping 
laws and other computer-related statutes, attorneys for Matthew Soble 
said in the complaint.

Google has drawn regulatory scrutiny and pressure from consumer 
advocates for the way it handles personal information. Last year, it 
agreed to settle claims with the Federal Trade Commission that Google 
used deceptive tactics and violated its own privacy policies when it 
introduced its Buzz social- networking service in 2010.

Chris Gaither, a spokesman for Mountain View, California- based 
Google, said in an e-mail that the company declined to comment on the 
suit's allegations.

Researchers at Stanford University said today Google programmers 
developed codes that allowed them to avoid privacy settings created 
by their rivals at Cupertino, California-based Apple. [Wanna bet the 
programmers will now be labled 'rogue' by Google lawyers, just like 
the Streetview situation?]

Privacy Circumvented?

The settings were designed to block cookies, or small pieces of code, 
that can be used to follow users' activities on the Web. The Wall 
Street Journal reported Google's actions in bypassing the privacy 
settings earlier this week.

Soble is seeking class-action status for his suit, which was filed on 
behalf of individuals "whose default privacy settings on the web 
browser software produced by Apple, known as Safari, were knowingly 
circumvented by Google," according to the suit.

Google's actions also prompted Consumer Watchdog to send a letter to 
the FTC today demanding action against the Internet- search provider.

"Safari users with the browser set to block third-party cookies 
thought they were not being tracked," John Simpson, privacy project 
director of Consumer Watchdog, said in the letter. "Nonetheless, 
because of an element invisible to the user, but designed to mimic a 
form, DoubleClick was able to set tracking cookies in an obvious 
violation of the set preference."

Lawmaker Attention

The allegations that Google bypassed Apple's privacy settings to 
gather information on user's Web browsing habits also have drawn 
attention from lawmakers.

"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," West Virginia Senator John D. (Jay) 
Rockefeller IV, a Democrat and chairman of the Senate Commerce 
Committee, said in a statement.

"We are taking immediate steps to address concerns, and we are happy 
to answer any questions regulators and others may have," Google's 
Gaither said in an e-mailed response.

The case is Matthew Soble v. Google Inc., U.S. District Court for the 
District of Delaware (Wilmington).

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