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How the cookie crumbles. Safari user sues Google over privacy violations

The repercussions keep rolling in from the Wall Street Journal’s expose that detailed how Google was bypassing the default privacy settings on Apple’s Safari browser in order to place tracking cookies that followed users around the web. Matthew Soble, an Illinois resident, has filed suit against Google in a Delaware federal court and is seeking class action status, reports Bloomberg.

Soble’s lawyers assert that Google knowingly violated federal wiretapping laws by placing these cookies in the browser of Safari users who believed that their setting blocked this kind of advertising technology.

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,” Rachel Whetstone, a senior vice president of communications and public policy at Google, told VentureBeat by email. “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.”

The search giant’s position is that they were simply trying to see if users were already signed in with their Google account so they could use the +1 button without logging in again. But in doing so, the company also placed advertising cookies. “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,” Whetstone said.


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