According to this report from the Wall Street Journal, Google has been secretly tracking users of the Safari browser on iPhones and computers even though such users had changed their settings to block tracking.
Google Inc. and other advertising companies have been bypassing the privacy settings of millions of people using Apple Inc.’s Web browser on their iPhones and computers—tracking the Web-browsing habits of people who intended for that kind of monitoring to be blocked.
The companies used special computer code that tricks Apple’s Safari Web-browsing software into letting them monitor many users. Safari, the most widely used browser on mobile devices, is designed to block such tracking by default.
Google disabled its code after being contacted by The Wall Street Journal.
This is a company that is in the midst of a total rewrite of its privacy policies in order to allow it to compile and cross-reference information across all its platforms to create a complete data on its users. The FTC should immediately investigate whether this tracking violates Google’s existing privacy policies.
More from the EFF.
Check this out:
Researchers at U.C. Berkeley have discovered that some of the net’s most popular sites are using a tracking service that can’t be evaded — even when users block cookies, turn off storage in Flash, or use browsers’ “incognito” functions.
The service, called KISSmetrics, is used by sites to track the number of visitors, what the visitors do on the site, and where they come to the site from — and the company says it does a more comprehensive job than its competitors such as Google Analytics.
In response to inquiries from Wired.com, Hulu cut ties with KISSmetrics on Friday.
UPDATE 5:00 PM Friday: Spotify, another KISSmetrics customer named in the report, said that it was concerned by the story:
“We take the privacy of our users incredibly seriously and are concerned by this report,” a spokeswoman said by e-mail. “As a result, we have taken immediate action in suspending our use of KISSmetrics whilst the situation is investigated.” /UPDATE
If you are running Safari and are concerned about your privacy, I would suggest that you install the following extensions: Ghostery, Incognito, and Ad Block for Safari.
By the way, there are a lot of other Safari extensions, and more every day. You can check them out here.
So, Apple has released a press release announcing the immediate availability of a new version of its browser Safari. While the release points to a page to download Safari 5.0, there is no such product available at this time. Nor is Safari 5.0 available via software update. Perhaps a slight snafu in coordinating the press release and the website update.
Oops. While I was writing this post, the press release vanished. Seems a little bit of lack of synchronization by a company knows for more or less flawless execution. Likely tomorrow will be the launch.
Update: The full text of the original press release is available here.