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Google reportedly ignoring Safari users' privacy settings to better track its ads [u]

post #1 of 107
Thread Starter 
Google has joined other online advertisers in intentionally circumventing the privacy settings of desktop and iOS Safari users in an effort to better track their web browsing activity [updated with comment from Google].

According to an investigation by Wall Street Journal, Google and at least three other smaller web ad networks (Vibrant Media, Media Innovation Group and Gannett PointRoll), have purposely overridden Safari's browser privacy settings using code that misrepresents its ads as being a user-initiated form submission.

The default settings of Safari block cookies "from third parties and advertisers," a setting that is supposed to only allow sites that the user is directly interacting with to save a cookie (client side data that remote web servers can later access in subsequent visits).

Advertisers like Google save cookies on users' browsers so they can track their browsing habits across the various websites they place their ads on, and these "third party" cookies are expressly what the setting is designed to block.

The report notes that "Google added coding to some of its ads that made Safari think that a person was submitting an invisible form to Google. Safari would then let Google install a cookie on the phone or computer."




While the cookies were set to expire with a day or two, the report states that a "technical quirk in Safari" subsequently "allows companies to easily add more cookies to a user's computer once the company has installed at least one cookie," resulting in "extensive tracking of Safari users."

Google's hack around Safari's browser privacy settings was discovered by Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer and "independently confirmed by a technical adviser to the Journal, Ashkan Soltani," who the site reported to have found Google's circumvention code enabling tracking for about a third of the web's top 100 sites for either desktop users or iOS users.

The Wall Street Journal named a wide variety of top websites, including Google's own YouTube, Aol, About.com, Comcast, NYTimes, YellowPages.com, Match.com and Fandango, as testing positive for Google's circumvention code, but noted that "there is no indication that any of the sites knew of the code" that Google was placing on their pages as a third party web advertising network.

The report cited Michael Balmoris, a spokesperson for AT&T, the operator of YellowPages.com, as saying "We were not aware of this behavior," and "we would never condone it."

It also cited an unnamed "official" from Apple as saying "we are working to put a stop" to the circumvention of Safari's privacy settings by advertisers like Google.

Google itself issued a statement saying the Wall Street 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."

Update: Google reached out to AppleInsider to share the following comment from the company's senior vice president of Communications and Public Policy, Rachel Whetstone:
Quote:
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.

Unlike other major browsers, Apple’s Safari browser blocks third-party cookies by default. However, Safari enables many web features for its users that rely on third parties and third-party cookies, such as “Like” buttons. Last year, we began using this functionality to enable features for signed-in Google users on Safari who had opted to see personalized ads and other content--such as the ability to “+1” things that interest them.

To enable these features, we created a temporary communication link between Safari browsers and Google’s servers, so that we could ascertain whether Safari users were also signed into Google, and had opted for this type of personalization. But we designed this so that the information passing between the user’s Safari browser and Google’s servers was anonymous--effectively creating a barrier between their personal information and the web content they browse.

However, the Safari browser contained functionality that then enabled other Google advertising cookies to be set on the browser. We didn’t anticipate that this would happen, and we have now started removing these advertising cookies from Safari browsers. It’s important to stress that, just as on other browsers, these advertising cookies do not collect personal information.

Users of Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome were not affected. Nor were users of any browser (including Safari) who have opted out of our interest-based advertising program using Google’s Ads Preferences Manager.

Vibrant Media, another web advertiser using similar tactics to Google's, called the circumvention a "workaround" intended to "make Safari work like all the other browsers," because other major browsers, including Google's own Chrome and the almost exclusively Google-financed Mozilla Firefox, do not block third party cookie tracking by default.

Google is already under government scrutiny regarding its privacy policies. In a settlement last year with the US Federal Trade Commission, the company agreed not to "misrepresent" privacy practices to customers or pay a fine of $16,000 per violation per day.




However, in its own online privacy guide, Google represented to Safari users that they did not need to do anything to opt out of its advertising cookies because "Safari is set by default to block all third-party cookies. If you have not changed those settings, this option effectively accomplishes the same thing."

Google has since removed that wording from its site, and after being contacted by the Wall Street Journal, has also reportedly disabled the tracking code to circumvent Safari's privacy settings.



[ View article on AppleInsider ]
post #2 of 107
Heinous.
post #3 of 107
It's the mysterious iframe--the standard HTML element for many revisions and yet to be sandboxed seamlessly in Chrome and Safari.

Sandbox the bastard already. I'd really like to not have 2 sets of CSS files. to make iframes match the look n' feel of their parent window container.
post #4 of 107
I guess if you customers aren't willing to pay for your product you have got to find somebody you can screw to make a buck. After all, it costs a lot of money trying to copy Apples every move.
post #5 of 107
Javascript is your friend.

Life is too short to drink bad coffee.

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Life is too short to drink bad coffee.

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post #6 of 107
The Internet is just too hard for the geniuses at Google, and so is the smartphone business. When the only way you can make a buck is by screwing people behind their backs, maybe you need to find another line of work.
post #7 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by Icelus View Post

I guess if you customers aren't willing to pay for your product you have got to find somebody you can screw to make a buck. After all, it costs a lot of money trying to copy Apples every move.

Remember when Google did things like G-mail? Nice stuff. They bought YouTube, and aside from not being able-- or not caring-- to remove the stupidest, nastiest comments section on the Internet, it's a very cool thing. But this deliberate betrayal of the consumer's wishes? Not acceptable. As the days go by, the less I think of them. I checked that box! Get your filthy hands off Safari!
post #8 of 107
More of Google's "Do no evil" disinformation mantra exposed
post #9 of 107
I still can't believe in this day and age that privacy is an issue, you have none, the government knows everything, Apple knows EVERYTHING, Micro$oft knows EVERYTHING, now Google also know EVERYTHING.

Apple even gives developers on iOS free access to your entire contact list and history without a hint of permission!!

So in the end, who cares about privacy, it is only an illusion to think you have any at all anyway! Try building a shed in your backyard and not telling the government! LOL

The same way jQuery had to put in fixes to bypass how SHIT Internet Explorer is, companies bypass Safari's pretend security. Don't freak out, don't stress yourself into a coma, just take a deep breath and enjoy your life... fear is the tool of the controlling class.
post #10 of 107
Besides, this site makes its money from Google adds, I'd think it's selfish to use the site and try to block Google's cookies, you should do you best to support the site by helping Google continue to pay for its existence!

Competition is awesome, if Google wasn't around Apple would stop innovating and release new features even slower cause as we all know Microsoft stopped innovating a decade ago when it had no competition, there's no reason to think Apple wouldn't do the same. We need Google and even... *gulp*... Micro$oft, in order to help Apple be all it can be!
post #11 of 107
I hate Google.
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #12 of 107
I smell a law suit
post #13 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by anthropic View Post

I still can't believe in this day and age that privacy is an issue, you have none, the government knows everything, Apple knows EVERYTHING, Micro$oft knows EVERYTHING, now Google also know EVERYTHING.

I see the Internet is too hard for you, too. It doesn't have to be that way, just as it isn't for medical records.

Incidentally, Microsoft knows almost nothing.
post #14 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by anthropic View Post

Apple even gives developers on iOS free access to your entire contact list and history without a hint of permission!!

It has always been against Apple's App Store policy to access and store a users' contacts without express permission. But it is amusing to hear Google defenders bring up Apple's restrictions as not being restrictive enough after trumpeting how free and open Android is.

Which is it, do you want impenetrable protection from all possible imagined threats or complete untethered freedom from anything that could be described as restrictive or potentially inconvenient?

The issue here is pretty clear: Safari is set to block ad cookies unless users allow them, and Google has been purposely defeating this feature expressly to track users that don't want to be tracked. It's even misrepresenting to users WHO GO TO A PAGE TO OPT OUT how the cookie blocking works.

That's beyond "oops, we saved too much data because of an oversight," it's pretty damned criminal.
post #15 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by anthropic View Post

Competition is awesome, if Google wasn't around Apple would stop innovating and release new features even slower cause as we all know Microsoft stopped innovating a decade ago when it had no competition, there's no reason to think Apple wouldn't do the same.

Actually, there's a very good reason -- Apple has been innovating long before Google even existed, and Apple's real competitor is Apple itself. They must outdo themselves. The fact that they are outdoing Microsoft and Google on product quality and user experience is merely a side-effect of their own high standard. They are not compelled by third-party competition to perform and achieve excellence. It's in their own DNA.
post #16 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cpsro View Post

I see the Internet is too hard for you, too. It doesn't have to be that way, just as it isn't for medical records.

Incidentally, Microsoft knows almost nothing.

I see someone who is ignorant yet still attempts to be condescending.
post #17 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by anthropic View Post

I still can't believe in this day and age that privacy is an issue, you have none, the government knows everything, Apple knows EVERYTHING, Micro$oft knows EVERYTHING, now Google also know EVERYTHING.

Apple even gives developers on iOS free access to your entire contact list and history without a hint of permission!!

So in the end, who cares about privacy, it is only an illusion to think you have any at all anyway! Try building a shed in your backyard and not telling the government! LOL

The same way jQuery had to put in fixes to bypass how SHIT Internet Explorer is, companies bypass Safari's pretend security. Don't freak out, don't stress yourself into a coma, just take a deep breath and enjoy your life... fear is the tool of the controlling class.

So, what Google has done is okay then?
Where are we on the curve? We'll know once it goes asymptotic!
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Where are we on the curve? We'll know once it goes asymptotic!
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post #18 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corrections View Post

It has always been against Apple's App Store policy to access and store a users' contacts without express permission. But it is amusing to hear Google defenders bring up Apple's restrictions as not being restrictive enough after trumpeting how free and open Android is.

Which is it, do you want impenetrable protection from all possible imagined threats or complete untethered freedom from anything that could be described as restrictive or potentially inconvenient?

The issue here is pretty clear: Safari is set to block ad cookies unless users allow them, and Google has been purposely defeating this feature expressly to track users that don't want to be tracked. It's even misrepresenting to users WHO GO TO A PAGE TO OPT OUT how the cookie blocking works.

That's beyond "oops, we saved too much data because of an oversight," it's pretty damned criminal.

http://www.appleinsider.com/articles...ress_book.html

I don't recall defending Google, I actually think it is pretty poor form what they did. Evil, I think would be a lame and insulting thing to call it, I think stupid and arrogant is more appropriate.

I don't think either the Apple contacts security failure or the Google cookie permission failures deserve the level of venom people spit at them. All corporations make bad decisions, they get told about them and fix the issue and try harder to avoid it, but it will always happen. I still think it is former Micro$oft employees penetrating both Apple and Google
post #19 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by IQatEdo View Post

So, what Google has done is okay then?

See above
post #20 of 107
If you are being lied to, you are being controlled

If you are being controlled, your are being lied to

Nothing every changes , what do people who have power and control want?
Answer: more power and control

Let them have their fun, we are all damned

Originally by Rickers - 2014 : Cook & will bury Apple.  They can only ride Steve's ghost so long.


History reduce Apple Watch.... to a footnote in the annals of technology - Benjamin Frost Dec 2014



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Originally by Rickers - 2014 : Cook & will bury Apple.  They can only ride Steve's ghost so long.


History reduce Apple Watch.... to a footnote in the annals of technology - Benjamin Frost Dec 2014



Reply
post #21 of 107
[QUOTE=anthropic;2048593]I still can't believe in this day and age that privacy is an issue, you have none, the government knows everything, Apple knows EVERYTHING, Micro$oft knows EVERYTHING, now Google also know EVERYTHING.[QUOTE]

What's that anagram.. um.. FUD, yeah, FUD

Apple knows everything i do but ah, don't need to make a buck of it, cause people buy things off them.

Google sells everything they know that i do to other people, for whatever they can. Cause that is how they make money.

I don't have an issue with privacy. i have an issue with people harvesting and selling what they collect because they don't have the brain power to actually think anything cool up that people would be willing to pay them for.

Unsolicited adversiting is illegal, stalking is illegal. and Google does what exactly?
you only have freedom in choice when you know you have no choice
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you only have freedom in choice when you know you have no choice
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post #22 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by coolfactor View Post

Actually, there's a very good reason -- Apple has been innovating long before Google even existed, and Apple's real competitor is Apple itself. They must outdo themselves. The fact that they are outdoing Microsoft and Google on product quality and user experience is merely a side-effect of their own high standard. They are not compelled by third-party competition to perform and achieve excellence. It's in their own DNA.

Your logic is askew, Apple has only recently ever been close to being a dominant player, prior to that they always had to innovate or they would have died off, as they very nearly did.

You simply cannot suggest Microsoft was not their real competitor for a few decades and their primary reason for innovation, that is a clear non sequitur.
post #23 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

While the cookies were set to expire with a day or two, the report states that a "technical quirk in Safari" subsequently "allows companies to easily add more cookies to a user's computer once the company has installed at least one cookie," resulting in "extensive tracking of Safari users."

You can spin this story as much as you want but it starts with a 'bug' in Safari. If Safari just did not have this 'technical quirk' there would have been no problem.

It's like blaming a hacker for using a weakness in the OS. Sure it's not nice of him/her to use it, but the real blame is with the OS vendor.
post #24 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by cy_starkman View Post

What's that anagram.. um.. FUD, yeah, FUD

Apple knows everything i do but ah, don't need to make a buck of it, cause people buy things off them.

Google sells everything they know that i do to other people, for whatever they can. Cause that is how they make money.

I don't have an issue with privacy. i have an issue with people harvesting and selling what they collect because they don't have the brain power to actually think anything cool up that people would be willing to pay them for.

Unsolicited adversiting is illegal, stalking is illegal. and Google does what exactly?

Actually to try to help you understand, Google do not sell your information and never have. They sell advertising to users based on interest. There is nothing personally identifiable provided to the advertiser about you, that just simply doesn't happen.

The reality is that most people like using Google's search because you get the results you want, but if you don't want advertising on their services you can purchase a Google Apps for Business account and have the adverts removed for $50 a year. But getting things for free thanks to advertising is great for poor people like me who don't care and is in NO WAY AT ALL comparable to unsolicited advertising or stalking. Think about it.
post #25 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by anthropic View Post

I see someone who is ignorant yet still attempts to be condescending.

You're looking at your navel again.
post #26 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by anthropic View Post

Actually to try to help you understand, Google do not sell your information and never have.

Right. But Google knows who you are--because they've got enough information to personally identify everyone of us by now. The claim that the data they collect are "anonymous" is complete b.s. The data are personal.

Google doesn't sell the information, but they can manipulate it to their own ends: twisting reality to maximally monetize ad revenue. This allows an occasional Google employee to snoop. Sometimes they get caught. I'm sure more often than not, they don't get caught.

How secure is your personal information with Google? What exactly does Google know about you?
post #27 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by mausz View Post

It's like blaming a hacker for using a weakness in the OS. Sure it's not nice of him/her to use it, but the real blame is with the OS vendor.

WHAT?! Are you fucking kidding me? So if a bully beats up a kid half his size, the fault lays with the victim for being younger, smaller, and therefore vulnerable?

Geez I hope you don't live close to me. With ethics like yours I'd worry about my car still being around in the morning.

.
post #28 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul94544 View Post

If you are being lied to, you are being controlled

If you are being controlled, your are being lied to

Nothing every changes , what do people who have power and control want?
Answer: more power and control

Let them have their fun, we are all damned

LOL.

My favorite comment on AI, to date. I agree, mostly.
post #29 of 107
If you turn cookies off, a lot of sites malfunction or get stuck in infinite loops. Nearly the whole web (with the exception of a few sites with paywalls) is paid for by ads, so basically as soon as you open your web browser except to be tracked and profiled and pigeon holed and all those other things advertisers like to do.

If you don't like the sound of that, remove Safari from your Dock and do everything with apps screened by the App Store, and be sure to buy the ad-free versions. The OS has a lot more insight in to what apps are doing (it knows what APIs they call) vs a Javascript website so can control things a bit better.
post #30 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by v5v View Post

WHAT?! Are you fucking kidding me? So if a bully beats up a kid half his size, the fault lays with the victim for being younger, smaller, and therefore vulnerable?

Geez I hope you don't live close to me. With ethics like yours I'd worry about my car still being around in the morning.
.

I don't see how this comparison can be made.

I should trust the browser maker to not have holes like this in its product, instead of hoping the hackers won't touch it.

You analogy with stealing cars is also a little bit strange, but still I'll go into that : If you only count on the ethics of others to protect your property you'll be in for a shocker. I lock my car and expect the law enforcement in my area to offer enough service to discourage potential theft. I don't rely on the fact every other person will respect my right of ownership.
post #31 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by mausz View Post

...

I should trust the browser maker to not have holes like this in its product, instead of hoping the hackers won't touch it.

...

Hackers, as opposed to an upstanding, impeccably behaved company that embodies the highest notions of trust, faithfulness and honesty!

I know, I know, I'm joking too.
Where are we on the curve? We'll know once it goes asymptotic!
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Where are we on the curve? We'll know once it goes asymptotic!
Reply
post #32 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by coolfactor View Post

Actually, there's a very good reason -- Apple has been innovating long before Google even existed, and Apple's real competitor is Apple itself. They must outdo themselves. The fact that they are outdoing Microsoft and Google on product quality and user experience is merely a side-effect of their own high standard. They are not compelled by third-party competition to perform and achieve excellence. It's in their own DNA.

Exactly. MSFT become bloated and weighed down by bureaucracy.
post #33 of 107
Google, don't be Google.
post #34 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by mausz View Post

You can spin this story as much as you want but it starts with a 'bug' in Safari. If Safari just did not have this 'technical quirk' there would have been no problem.

It's like blaming a hacker for using a weakness in the OS.

So Google is a hacker now. When was the last time you trusted a hacker?
post #35 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by anthropic View Post

Actually to try to help you understand, Google do not sell your information and never have. They sell advertising to users based on interest. There is nothing personally identifiable provided to the advertiser about you, that just simply doesn't happen.

That's what they claimed. They also claimed something about this fiasco, didn't they? And how it turned out?
post #36 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by mausz View Post

I don't rely on the fact every other person will respect my right of ownership.

In other words, you think everyone is just like you?
post #37 of 107
I've just punted Google from my iPhone recently. I've nominally put yahoo on search.

But I'm using 'start page' for my searches now.

I've also punted Google from my desktop. Long overdue.

What took me so long...

Arrogant snakes.

Lemon Bon Bon.

You know, for a company that specializes in the video-graphics market, you'd think that they would offer top-of-the-line GPUs...

 

WITH THE NEW MAC PRO THEY FINALLY DID!  (But you bend over for it.)

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You know, for a company that specializes in the video-graphics market, you'd think that they would offer top-of-the-line GPUs...

 

WITH THE NEW MAC PRO THEY FINALLY DID!  (But you bend over for it.)

Reply
post #38 of 107
I started using duck duck go a couple months ago, I wish they had an image search though. I need to find a paid email and dump gmail once and for all.
post #39 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by anthropic View Post

Competition is awesome, if Google wasn't around Apple would stop innovating and release new features even slower cause as we all know Microsoft stopped innovating a decade ago when it had no competition, there's no reason to think Apple wouldn't do the same. We need Google and even... *gulp*... Micro$oft, in order to help Apple be all it can be!

Google is a competitor for Apple?? Seriously? Do you REALLY believe that?
If Yes to all 3 I suggest you Wikipedia what competition is. And maybe learn a thing or 2.
post #40 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cpsro View Post

Right. But Google knows who you are--because they've got enough information to personally identify everyone of us by now. The claim that the data they collect are "anonymous" is complete b.s. The data are personal.

Google doesn't sell the information, but they can manipulate it to their own ends: twisting reality to maximally monetize ad revenue. This allows an occasional Google employee to snoop. Sometimes they get caught. I'm sure more often than not, they don't get caught.

How secure is your personal information with Google? What exactly does Google know about you?

Correction: It is extremely hard for even senior employees there to access user information, they simply can't let it happen as they can't allow the sort of fiasco that AOL experienced when employees started befriending Tom Hanks and other celebrities!

I can say that have done the research and talked to relevant people to understand their data storage mechanisms and procedures, so trust me, as a computer systems architect for a global telecommunications group, their systems are the best in the world and among the hardest of any company on earth for employees to snoop!

With your Google dashboard you can see a copy of all the data they have about you all in one place. You can even request they delete it. But once you understand how beneficial it is to the services they provide it just makes sense.

I don't really follow your non sequitur about twisting reality for money leading to snooping, but I hope what I wrote cleared up some of the misinformation you have held previously.

Facebook pays a lot of money to PR firms to try to make your opinion about Google the negative one it has fabricated, sometimes Google do make mistakes, about as many as most IT companies, but sometimes it is worth finding out for yourself. After all, we live in a world where if you want free services you give over information. It is basic capitalism.
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