REPORT: Microsoft Also Targeted By Google Tracking “Trick”February 20, 2012 4:44 pm ·
Last week, the Wall Street Journal discovered that Google was using questionable tracking methods when it bypassed the default privacy settings for Apple’s Safari browser. However, a new report on Monday reveals that Safari users were not the only ones to fall victim to Google’s “special computer code that tricks” web browsers “into letting them monitor many users.”
According to the report, Google used a similar tactic against users of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9 Web browser. After looking into their own records when the news broke last week, IE official Dean Hachamovich found that the assault on IE9 also involves the exploitation of a loophole involving cookies. Given IE9’s default setting which blocks cookies from sites that do not honor P3P technology—which communicates to Web browsers how tracking cookies are used—Google, who does not honor P3P, should have had its cookies blocked.
But instead, Google employs a loophole—instead of leaving a blank in the spot where it would deliver a P3P policy that only a browser could understand, it delivers a human-readable message saying “This is not a P3P policy!” and a link to this page explaining why Google doesn’t like P3P.
While, as I acknowledged last week, an aspect of shared responsibility could be argued regarding Google’s tracking scheme with Safari, the same argument cannot be made in this case. Unlike the default privacy settings on Safari—which were only allegedly set to prevent such tracking activity—the settings on IE9 explicitly seek to block cookies from non-P3P sites, and Google directly disregarded that policy.
That is, while Google might be able to get off on a technicality—or at least shift some of the blame to Apple—when it comes to last week’s Safari controversy, the web giant’s latest “trick” falls far more suspect. And given the increased scrutiny surrounding Google on both the consumer and regulatory levels, one can’t help but wonder what kind of benefit could possibly be worth reaping at the expense of Google’s reputation…or much worse.
NOTE: If you use Internet Explorer 9, Microsoft posted directions to prevent Google from tracking its users. Get it here.
- Google Bypassing User Privacy Settings (blogs.msdn.com)
- Google Gaffe: How The Latest Google Scandal Underscores A Much Deeper Problem With the Internet (experts-exchange.com)
- Google tricks Internet Explorer into accepting tracking cookies, Microsoft claims (arstechnica.com)
- Microsoft: Google Is Bypassing Internet Explorer Privacy Settings, Too (marketingland.com)