- Published on Friday, 16 March 2012 18:54
Google is to face new investigations in both America and the EU over using hidden computer code to violate iPhone users' privacy settings.
The search giant is alleged to have 'tricked' the web browser in iPhone, iPad and PC into sending information to Google.
The information was used to build up advertising profiles on Google account users, and caused outrage among privacy groups.
The search giant is to be investigated by America's Federal Trade Commission over whether the 'trick', uncovered earlier this year, violates agreements about openness and privacy.
Google has since stopped using the code.
Google allegedly used a 'trick' which sends a blank message to the browser to make it accept 'cookies' which send information to Google.
'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,' says a spokesperson today. 'We will of course cooperate with any officials who have questions. But it's important to remember that we didn't anticipate this would happen, and we have been removing these advertising cookies from Safari browsers.
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A former Google executive claimed this week that the search company has been turned into an 'ad company' obsessed with harvesting people's private information.
James Whittaker, a current Partner Development Manager at Microsoft and ex-Engineering Director at Google, posted the 1328-word attack on Google on his Microsoft blog this week.
Safari is the most popular mobile web browser, used in all models of Apple's iPhone and iPad.
Google allegedly circumvented the protection to build up profiles of web users, using a 'cookie' that collected advertising information.
The move has caused outcry among privacy advocates.
The code was uncovered by a Stanford University researcher Jonathan Mayer and was reported in the Wall Street Journal.
Google has since disabled the code, and claims that the report is in error, and that its cookies only collected anonymous information.
The revelation caused outcry among online privacy advocates.
San Francisco's Electronic Frontier Foundation says, 'It's time for Google to acknowledge that it can do a better job of respecting the privacy of Web users.'
'Unlike other major browsers, Apple’s Safari browser blocks third-party cookies by default,' said a Google spokesperson at the time.
'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.
'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.'
'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.