Print 14 comment(s) - last by hexxthalion.. on Jul 12 at 10:08 AM

Google was charged with bypassing Apple Safari user privacy settings in order to track those who had previously blocked that type of tracking

Google may have to pay the largest fine ever given by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in a privacy settlement regarding Apple's Safari users.

Google, which invaded the privacy settings of users of Apple's Safari browser, could pay as much as $22.5 million to the FTC for its actions.

Google was charged with bypassing Apple Safari user privacy settings in order to track those who had previously blocked that type of tracking. Google used special computer code, or cookies, to do so.

The Wall Street Journal ended up outing Google for placing ad-tracking cookies on Safari users. These third-party cookies are used to track what users are doing on the Internet, which in turn helps Web giants like Google target users with suitable advertisements.

Google was able to successfully get past Safari's browser settings for privacy, which attempts to block certain types of cookies. Safari accepts first-party cookies (the Web site the user is on) or second-party cookies (the user's browser), but blocks third-party cookies, which links the browser to an entirely different Web site. The mobile version of Safari, which can be found on iOS devices, has the ability to block all cookies or none at all.

After Google's actions were discovered, Microsoft found that the Android/search giant was doing the same thing with Internet Explorer users. Microsoft suggested that IE9 users use a feature called Tracking Protection.

Google responded to the charges by saying that the tracking was unintentional, and that no harm came from the company's inadvertent actions.

"The FTC is focused on a 2009 help center page," said Google. "We have now changed that page and taken steps to remove the ad cookies."

Source: Reuters

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By Trisped on 7/11/2012 2:29:44 PM , Rating: 2
Sounds like a bug in the software to me. If a standard HTML page can get around the browsers settings just by putting a request in a <form> element (an extremely common element on pages) then the browser did not implement its settings correctly.

The thing about HTML is that "as long as it works, it is ok" is the common mantra. Even if there is a rule that a cookie should not be placed using code inside a <form> element, if it achieves the goal it is considered ok. This is because many rules cannot be followed due to incorrect or incomplete implementation of browsers. For example, you are not suppose to use tables for layout, instead they should be used to present "tabular data". But, if you want your layout to have columns which auto size based on the width of the browser window then you have to use tables, because the div styles which are suppose to do the same thing do not work in most popular browsers.

This means it will be very hard to prove malicious intent, and thus, that Google is in need of a fine. If I was Google I would just state that it only occurred on a few pages and was the result of a coding preference and not malicious intent. It would be hard for anyone to prove otherwise, as these types of things are common to web pages (as noted above).

By hexxthalion on 7/12/2012 10:08:01 AM , Rating: 2
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