Google Accused Of Secretly Tracking Safari Users

A new report by the Wall Street Journal has leveled a pretty heavy accusation at Google, that they’ve been intentionally sidestepping Apple’s privacy measure in Safari to install cookies without user permission. Both on the desktop and iOS versions of the application, Safari requires permissions to run cookies, unlike most other browsers. The workaround used by Google (and a number of other companies) gets around this by using a quirk in Safari.

Safari doesn’t require approval for a cookie if the user is interacting with a website, say submitting a form. So in order for Google to get around the cookie block, they hid an “invisible form” in the Google+ +1 button that you see on some ads. When you hit the +1 button, the form is submitted, and Google gets their cookie to track you for 12-24 hours.

At this point, Google has denied any wrongdoing, but nonetheless has suspended the program, saying:

“The 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.”

Some people are saying that  Google wasn’t significantly in the wrong, with even MG Siegler claiming it’s a shades of grey situation.

  • Hawk

    I like Google Products except their advertising. In fact, I HATE web advertising with a passion. I install the Google opt-out plugin on all my browsers, I go to the NAI website and opt out of all their assiciated advertisers… I DON’T want to see ads… especially ones that happen to display my age, things I have recently browsed, or anything of a personal nature.
    Granted, ads are how they make their money, and it’s fairly obvious that they will advertise anything short of porn, but I find it very intrusive. I would like the option not to see ads at all. If I am interested in a product, I’ll look it up.
    The tracking cookie that comes with hitting the +1 button is definitely skirting the rule through a loop-hole, and should be shut down. I think God I never use that button. In fact, I don’t use Google + anymore. I have an account, but find it’s far more trouble than it’s worth. They made part of it too private, and of course, as shown in the article, the other part not private at all.