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Google’s Secret Web Tracking: First Safari, Now Internet Explorer


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In a story that first caught our attention last Friday, Google (GOOG) is under fire again for allegedly circumventing user privacy settings in place on some major web browsers, enabling them to track ads you click on. Last week The Wall Street Journal uncovered code being used to tap into Apple (AAPL) mobile users navigating through Safari.

This caused Microsoft (MSFT) to stop and take a look at their own privacy settings for Internet Explorer.

Well, it should come as no surprise that Microsoft's self-reflection has yielded some anger. The company's IEBlog published an article yesterday simply titled Google Bypassing User Privacy Settings.

"What Google is trying to do is figure out things based on what you have looked at, figure out ways to serve you more relevant ads," says Henry Blodget, co-host of The Daily Ticker and CEO of BusinessInsider.com. "That is very standard practice across the internet."

So why all the outrage? Because of Google's sheer size and hold on internet search, the company stores massive amounts of user data likely beyond our wildest dreams. The idea that the internet giant is intentionally working around settings put in place by other companies meant to protect our privacy is what pushes this to another level of concern.

"Here's where it gets a little bit worse for Google, which is that Google intentionally circumvented some privacy protections that Apple put in place, now Microsoft is saying 'hey wait a minute, they did the same thing to us,'" says Blodget. "Google is doing something that helps Google, and that Google thinks that some people will like, that Apple is trying to prevent."

Apple believes the average person doesn't want ad-tracking cookies on their computer or mobile device. So they set up privacy settings in Safari to block these. Google found a way to come in, through a loophole, to circumvent that setting. It's not illegal, but for users and lawmakers it's questionable.

According to Blodget, Apple is trying to be better than others by blocking user exploitation. And while he's upfront in saying that for the vast majority of consumers, this won't matter; sometimes perception is reality.

"Google did something that Apple was trying to prevent, it did it secretly, it hasn't come out and apologized: I think that's a problem," says Blodget. "And I think it's a problem, especially given Google's perception."

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