Google under fire for sidestepping track-blocking software
SAN FRANCISCO — Privacy advocates, lawyers and powerful rival Microsoft were piling on Google on Tuesday for sidestepping Web browsing software to tailor ads for people signed into its online services.
The California-based Internet giant continued to staunchly defend itself meanwhile against accusations that it had put profit ahead of privacy.
Controversy ignited last week after it was revealed that Google ad-targeting “cookies” bypassed track-blocking software on Apple’s Web browser for iPones and computers was fanned by Microsoft saying Internet Explorer was likewise duped.
By Tuesday a suit was filed in US federal court demanding Google pay unspecified damages for violating the privacy of millions of people, and potentially national anti-wiretapping law.
Some researchers, however, said lashing out at Google did little to resolve a contradiction underpinning the complex situation — people want free online services that know them but Web surfing that remains anonymous.
Snippets of code called “cookies” from Google and three online ad specialty firms slipped past tracker-blocking safeguards on Apple’s Safari browser, Stanford University graduate student Jonathan Mayer said Friday in a blog post.
Microsoft on Monday said that a check showed that Google was bypassing anti-tracking mechanisms built into the Redmond, Washington-based technology titan’s Internet Explorer (IE) Web browsing software.
“Google is employing similar methods to get around the default privacy protections in IE and track IE users with cookies,” IE corporate vice president Dean Hachamovitch said in a blog post.
“Given this real-world behavior, we are investigating what additional changes to make to our products,” he said.
Google fired back at Microsoft, saying that the company has known for years that the IE cookie blocking technique thwarted the functionality of modern websites such as Facebook and Amazon and that bypassing it was common practice.
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