Tag Archives: Safari

A Breakdown Of Google’s Statement After Being Exposed Spying On Apple Users

The morning after The Wall Street Journal exposed Google’s tracking of unsuspecting Apple users, Google released a statement in an attempt at damage control. The statement, however, is a shameful display of Google’s expertise in twisting the truth and spin. Let’s take a closer examination of the full statement:

Friday, February 17th, 2012 – Rachel Whetstone, Google’s senior vice president for communications released this to the media:

“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.”

 Henry Blodget, who writes for Business Insider, wrote that people would need a “PhD in reading-between-the-lines to figure out” what Google actually means by this ridiculous convoluted statement. Google tried once again to deceive people by the way they phrased and worded their statement. The company obviously thinks the general public is too stupid to see right past their truth bending.

 The first sentence of Google’s statement does not entirely dispute the reporting by The Wall Street Journal. The “known Safari functionality” that Google refers to is what The Wall Street Journal called a “loophole” in Apple’s browser security and which Google exploited. It was “known” because the loophole was discovered as early as 2010 and some in the tech community knew about it.

And signed-in users had NOT enabled it – Google did. Google changed the code to trick the Safari browser into thinking the user was filling out a form and it then permitted a tracking cookie to be set. Apple users clearly thought that they were being protected from tracking, so shame on Google for trying to blame the victim.

 As for the claim that tracking cookies do not collect personal information – well, that’s a load of bull, because these cookies hold a lot of personal information. This is what Jonathan Mayer, the Stanford University researcher who first discovered what Google was doing, had to say in a telephone interview:

 “We have a design document that directly contradicts this statement. The social personalization cookie contains a copy of (a user’s) account ID. I don’t know what definition they’re using (for personal information), but a user’s account ID is included in any reasonable definition. That’s the account that lets you pull up their email, search history, the videos they’ve viewed, the list goes on and on.”

 In an amusing mockery of the last two paragraphs in Google’s statement, Henry Blodget offered this analogy, in the communication style Google used, to give you a sense of how ridiculous Google’s logic is:

 “I was walking down the street past a friend’s house, and I thought my friend wouldn’t mind if I went in and watched TV and ate some food. There was a window open, so I climbed through it. While I was in the kitchen, I saw some cash. In a situation that I did not anticipate when I climbed through the window, the design of the house enabled this cash to be scooped up by my hands.”

 This tactic of deception Google has been using for so long to cover its dirty tracks is getting tired. What’s most hopeful, though, is that the general public is becoming increasingly more knowledgeable about what Big Google is really up to. We’re on to you, Big Google – we are becoming resistant to your BS.

 You can read the entire transcript of the telephone interview with Stanford researcher, Jonathan Mayer, where he disputes nearly every point made by Google – click here

 For some background on everything discussed here, CBS News did a great job covering what happened – click here

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Google Tricked And Lied To Apple Users To Make It Easier To Later Spy On Them

Yesterday, I posted here how you can better protect yourselves against Google by making sure your iPhone’s settings are set to maximum security. My post, which I titled “How to block Google from tracking you on your iPhone“, gave you steps for you to follow. In addition, I provided you a link to the Business Insider website that has the full 10 steps. Here is a link to the post I’m referring to – click here

Let’s take a closer look at step number 7, which advised you to do the following:

“This screen will pop up. Hit ‘Never.’ That means your browser will never accept any cookies. (Google’s trick took advantage of the “From visited” setting. That setting means you only want cookies from sites you visit. But Google and other ad networks found a way to deliver their cookies anyway.) Then hit ‘Safari’ to go back to the last screen.”

This is a critical step because, as already pointed out to you, Google was able to circumvent Apple’s security setting through a loophole in the “From visited” setting. What Google figured was that Apple designed their browser to only accept cookies from the actual page users are on if the browser thought users trusted the site enough to file out a form. Google then deliberately manipulated the browser to accept Google’s tracking cookies by changing a code to trick the browser into thinking that the user was filling out a form when in actuality they were not. For an illustration on how this works, you can click here

Alright, if you thought that was bad enough – wait, it gets worse! Let me tell you just how disgusting and low Google was willing to go. Google not only targeted innocent unsuspecting users of Apple’s web browser, who thought that they were not being tracked, but Google also intentionally lied and deceived them too!

Google didn’t just secretly go and change the security setting of Apple users’ browser – they also gave false advice to innocent people to follow, so that Google could carry out its tracking and manipulate the browser.

How did Google deceivingly set people up to be later victimized? Okay, here are the sordid details explaining what exactly Google did:

Google knew about the loophole in Apple’s Safari security setting as early as 2010, as reported by Tech website Gizmodo.

Google has something called an “advertising cookie opt-out plugin”, which was supposedly developed by Google to give people a way to block third-party cookies (hmm, whatever!). So anyway, this plugin was developed for users of Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Google’s own browser named Chrome.

Conspicuously missing from this list was Apple’s web browser, Safari, which Google decided not to include. Google claimed that they couldn’t yet create a similar plugin that could function on Safari – but they reassured Apple’s users that their browser already has a built-in default setting which effectively blocks tracking anyway.

Then, Google told Apple users to double-check if they are truly protected from tracking cookies by checking their settings. Google gave them a 3 step instruction to “confirm that Safari is set up to block third-party cookies“.

This is what Google told Apple users in step 3:

“Make sure the ‘Accept cookies’ setting is set to ‘Only from sites you navigate to’. You can also set this option to ‘Never’, but this will prevent many web sites that rely on cookies from working.”

Wow! The level of deception is absolutely abhorrent! Now that we know what Google did to Apple users, this last step Google provided to innocent people makes more sense in hindsight. Google deliberately gave unsuspecting and trusting Apple users the wrong advice to make them more vulnerable to spyware and tracking!

What Google did is morally and ethically corrupt – it should also be illegal!

By the way, that “advertising cookie opt-out plugin” page has now been edited by Google to hide the evidence. Some time between February 14th and 15th, Google found out that the Wall Street Journal was in the process of writing a story about the tracking of Apple users – Google then immediately edited that page so that the instructions for Apple Safari users is no longer there.

But they couldn’t hide it fast enough because a non-profit consumer advocacy group Consumer Watchdog took screenshots of the page before it had been edited and after it was edited by Google.

This is a screenshot before Google edited the page: click here

This is the screenshot of that same page after Google edited it: click here

The advocacy group has written a letter to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) detailing what they found. The group is calling on the FTC to take actions to punish Google for clearly violating the consent order the company agreed to last year.

According to Walter Isaacson’s bestselling authorized biography on the late CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs was a fierce defender of the iPhone. Steve Jobs was “willing to go thermonuclear war” against Google to defend his products and users. Sadly, Mr. Jobs passed away last year from cancer – but this doesn’t mean Apple users are not fighting back against Google. One man has already filed a lawsuit against Google (click here)

For more information on all of this, please click here

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Big Google Is Slapped With A Lawsuit For Tracking Man’s Apple Web Browser

 There is more fallout from the latest Google privacy violation that got everybody talking. Now, an Illinois man is determined to get back at Google for allegedly exposing his personal data and spying on him. Matthew Soble has filed a lawsuit against Google less than 24 hours ago in a federal court in Delaware.

Attorneys representing Mr. Soble are arguing that Google willfully and knowingly violated federal wiretapping laws and other statutes. Attorneys for the man are not just stopping there, they are seeking a class-action status for their lawsuit so that all individuals “whose default privacy settings on the web browser software produced by Apple, known as Safari, [and] knowingly circumvented by Google” can also seek justice. Since Apple’s web browser is used by most people who use mobile devices, this class-action lawsuit can result in millions of people going after Google.

When asked by the media to respond to the lawsuit, Google declined to make a comment.

The case is Matthew Soble v. Google Inc. (GOOG), U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware (Wilmington).

This should be interesting. Keep an eye on this one! Big Google you allegedly spied on the wrong man.

For more information on this lawsuit, you can read Bloomberg’s article by clicking here

CBS News video explaining what happened: google-under-fire-over-secretly-tracking-users

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Google Caught Spying On Apple’s Iphone And Safari Users!

Oh…my…goodness…you won’t believe what Google has been caught doing yesterday – well, actually, you will if you’ve been following my postings on this site – but it still doesn’t make it any less shocking!

Big Google has been caught, outed, by a Stanford University researcher for spying on all the online activity of Apple users. The researcher, Jonathan Mayer, documented his findings in a blog post he wrote and which the Wall Street Journal picked up. After the Wall Street Journal ran the story Thursday night, it spread like wildfire. Now all the major newspapers and television news programs are informing its readers and viewers about the latest major privacy violation by Google.

As many of you know, Apple has its own browser which it calls Safari. According to some estimates, Safari accounts for 6% of desktop Internet browsing and 50% of mobile Internet browsing. I have explained on here before that websites you visit put a tracking device on your browser to record everything you do on their site.  Some of these tracking tools will even stay on your browser long after you’ve left the website that put it there in the first place. These tracking devices are called “cookies”. The word “cookie” might sound all innocent – just like how Google’s use of primary colors for its logo might look all innocent- but they are anything but innocent.

These cookies have the capability to really figure you out. They will record every link you click on, how you are engaging with the website, and even how long you stay on a particular page to gauge your interest in that page.

Apple’s web browser, Safari, blocks cookies from being set on their browser. The company does not feel the need to have those tracking devices, and they don’t think that it’s in the best interest of its users. Therefore, Apple took a responsible approach and a revolutionary approach in not allowing cookies on its browser. Apple was smart enough to care about its users so much so that they even made sure the default setting for Safari was set so that cookies was disabled. Now, this default setting is crucial! That’s because many people do not change their default settings and just keep the browser the same way as it came originally.

A little over a week ago, February 8th, I wrote how Google is an advertising-based business that depends on advertising for over 90% of its revenues. I informed you of a man named Christopher Soghoian, a Washington, D.C.-based graduate fellow at the Center for Applied Cyber-Security Research. He made a speech at a security summit where he said that companies that depend heavily on advertising couldn’t care less about your privacy. For these companies, the profits that come from advertising always trump the protection of consumers. In that same speech, Mr. Soghoian made sure to congratulate Apple because the company takes the “responsible route” when it comes to protecting its users. Apple, which does not depend on advertisers to keep its business strong and profitable, has taken steps to secure its users from intrusive activity spying. You can read my entire post on this by clicking here

Google, on the other hand, has done the complete opposite of what Apple has done. Google’s browser, Chrome, is the only browser that does not block tracking. I have already explained why Google does not think it is in their interest to protect the personal data of its users.

Now – we have learned that Google was not only neglecting to protect its own users on Chrome but Google was also deliberately exposing Apple users to tracking too!! Google employees found a loophole around Apple’s anti-tracking browser and exploited that loophole to expose users to tracking without their knowledge whatsoever. Google figured out that if the Safari browser thought a user was filling out a form on the web it allowed cookies to function because the browser assumed you trusted the site enough to give it your personal data.

This was the way in for Google and now it could start tracking Apple’s users. If you want a detailed explanation on how this actually works, take a look at this illustration by the Wall Street Journal – click here.

After being caught spying, Google had this to say:

“We didn’t anticipate that this would happen, and we have now started removing these advertising cookies from Safari browsers”

Even though Google deliberately circumvented default privacy setting on Apple’s web browser, they release a statement playing dumb – acting all innocent. Please! Save it!

Google often plays dumb when it is caught red-handed, like it did two years ago when its Street View service collected personal information from WiFi networks and when the US Department of Justice busted Google aiding and abetting a con artist to commit his crimes (to learn more on this, click here)

Now, as you can imagine, people are outraged at Google for spying on innocent unsuspecting people. Apple is also outraged and the company said it will take further steps to protect its users from companies like Google exploiting loopholes in its browser to spy on its users.

Members of Congress want to set up new meetings with Google to grill them yet again on privacy violations. Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif said,

“Google has some tough new questions to answer in the wake of this latest privacy flap, and that’s why I am asking them to come in for another briefing…these types of incidents continue to create consumer concerns about how their personal information is used and shared”

Several other members of Congress have even contacted the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to open a new investigation on Google. This time, even members of the US Senate have weighed in on this latest privacy violation by indicating that Google may also have to answer to the Senate.

Google, you’re a disgrace.

For more information:   Wired.com has an article on this story (click here)

USA Today has an article on this story (click here)

CBS News article (click here)

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