Friday, February 17, 2012

(BN) Google Dodged IPhone Users’ Privacy With DoubleClick, Stanford Study Finds

Bloomberg News, sent from my iPhone.

Google Violated IPhone Users' Privacy, Stanford Study Finds

Feb. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Google Inc. violated users' online privacy choices, according to a research study that prompted a consumer advocate group to ask the Federal Trade Commission to take action against the world's most popular search engine.

Using its DoubleClick ad network, Google has been dodging a privacy setting in Apple Inc.'s Safari, the primary Web browser on the iPhone and iPad, according to a study by Stanford University's Security Lab and the Center for Internet and Society released today.

The study named three other companies, Vibrant Media Inc., Media Innovation Group LLC and PointRoll Inc., that were also evading privacy settings.

"Apple's Safari Web browser is configured to block third- party cookies by default," Stanford graduate student Jonathan Mayer said in the study. "Google and Vibrant Media intentionally circumvent Safari's privacy feature."

Cookies, or small parts of code, can be used to track users activities on the Web. Blocking them is supposed to prevent the ability to track.

"Safari users with the browser set to block third-party cookies thought they were not being tracked," John Simpson, privacy project director of Consumer Watchdog, said in a letter to the FTC. "Nonetheless, because of an element invisible to the user, but designed to mimic a form, DoubleClick was able to set tracking cookies in an obvious violation of the set preference."

No Personal Info

Google has started removing the advertising cookies from Safari browsers, Rachel Whetstone, senior vice president of communications and public policy at Mountain View, California- based Google, said in an e-mailed statement.

"It's important to stress that, just as on other browsers, these advertising cookies do not collect personal information," Whetstone said.

The findings of the Stanford study were earlier reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Google began using data from its Google+ service in search results of members this year and announced a new privacy policy covering the majority of its products which will take effect on March 1. The new policy will enable Google to provide more targeted advertisements, a move to compete with Facebook Inc.

To contact the reporter on this story: Heather Perlberg in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at

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