"Google's iPhone Tracking" blares the front page of today's Wall Street Journal. The article within outlines the secret creation and use of computer codes that were able to "trick Apple's Safari web-browsing software" into allowing Google to monitor what iPhone users were doing on the internet.
It only took one phone call from the Wall Street Journal and Google (GOOG) folded, removing the offending code from its ads. Talk about playing a weak hand of poker, but such is life when the issue at stake is privacy.
While it's easy to see why people are angry at these type of revelations, to be shocked or surprised to learn that companies are finding new ways to turn data into dollars, strikes Macke and I as a little naive.
"Google took a crack at them (Apple), worked their way around the code, and then said, 'what we did is perfectly legal, the Journal mischaracterized it,' but then they took it down immediately to try something else," Macke says in the attached video clip.
The rapid response and disabling of the secret code speaks volumes about how touchy this issue has become for big tech and advertising companies that have found themselves walking a tightrope between customer outrage and marketing gold.
But it's not just tech that's feeling the heat. Target (TGT) was the focus of a recent New York Times article about "How Companies Learn Your Secrets," or in this case, track your purchases to predict that you're pregnant. The retailer has gone so far as to send coupons that coincide with your predicted due date, even tailoring the ads for baby girls, if say, you bought pink crib sheets. Not to be left out of the party, Twitter also admitted that it stores contact information taken from the devices of its legion of users.
Lawmakers and regulators like the Federal Trade Commission feel your pain and are acting on your angst. Just this week, a house panel sent a letter to Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook asking for an explanation of what the computer-maker is doing to protect the privacy of its customers and their digital address books. He has until the end of the month to reply.
In the meantime, what is clear is that technology companies are smarter, richer, and miles ahead of the lowly lawmakers who are trying to rein them in.
"Your privacy is not private on the internet," Macke reminds us. "They know exactly where you're searching and the weird stuff you're into."
Do you think Google has gone too far tracking you online? Tell us what you think in the poll and comments below.
- Wall Street Journal