The Cookie Monster Strikes Again…

If you’re an iPhone or iPad user, the recent revelations about Google tracking your Safari browser usage may leave you feeling a little violated.

Google is currently under scrutiny for ‘tricking’ the Safari browser into divulging your internet usage, which allows Google to target ads at your device; despite the browser’s default privacy settings.

This couldn’t have been revealed at a worse time for Google, as they are currently facing a widespread negative backlash over their new privacy policy which is set to come into play on 1st March. With the new privacy policy in place, Google will be allowed to share your user information across all of its services; which means your private e-mail account will be sharing information with your YouTube account.

4.3% of internet users use Safari as their default browser, and a huge portion of these users are iPhone and iPad users. With the world still enthralled with Apple’s technology, this number is only set to rise.

So how did Google respond to this?

It was an accident, of course. Rachel Whetstone, Google’s VP of communications and public policy said:

“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.”

Even if the cookies aren’t collecting personal information, there is still a huge violation of trust. If you’re using a browser which, by default, does not allow cookies from third party sites to track users, then that’s exactly what you expect to happen. Right?

How did this blunder happen?

Some cookies are allowed by Safari, and they mostly relate to social media sites. If you’ve ever visited a website using Safari and hit the ‘like’ button which links to Facebook, there’s a cookie involved which stores your Facebook information to make this action easier.

Google tried something similar, and added a temporary cookie to allow users to interact with the ‘+1’ button and link it with their Google+ account. In reality, this just acted as a backdoor for other tracking files to sneak through. The result? Ads targeted at users’ browser history, which is in violation of the Safari privacy policy.

Google has now started to remove these advertising cookies from Safari browsers and assured users that no personal information was stored.

How do you feel about this recent revelation?

And does it make you view the new Google Privacy Policy in a different light?