Google privacy flap: A closer look at the Web giant’s statement on the Safari tracker

February 17, 2012

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Google has been tracking the behavior of users of Apple’s Safari browser even though those users did not approve such monitoring. (We’ve already recapped Google’s actions here and explained how they affect users here.)

Google released a statement that pushes back against the article’s portrayal of their practices. Here are two key phrases from the statement:

Google said: “The Journal mischaracterizes what happened and why.” This sentence highlights the fact that Google is not entirely disputing the news report.

Google said: “We used known Safari functionality to provide features that signed-in Google users had enabled.” What Google refers to as “a known Safari functionality” was characterized by the Journal article as a “loophole.” The report noted that the ability to circumvent the tracking blocker was something of an open secret among Web geeks. This blog post by Anant Garg from 2010 gives an example. But, the article said, millions of the Safari users who were tracked by the search engine giant had not intended to give Google that kind of monitoring power.

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Microsoft, others hit back at Google over privacy flap

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economics news.
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