Google Sued By Apple Safari User, Under Scrutiny From Lawmakers
Google officials were sued for violating users’ privacy rights by an Apple Safari User Friday, despite the browser’s default setting to block cookies. This will another example of privacy cocncerns Congress will address after having introduced several privacy bills since last year.
Rep. Mary Bono Mack (D-CA) has called for Google to come in for another briefing to “figure out how we can better protect consumer privacy,” in a statement released today.
According to Bloomberg news, lawyers filed a lawsuit today in a federal court in Delaware for an Illinois man who uses the Safari browser:
“Google’s willful and knowing actions violated” federal wiretapping laws and other computer-related statutes, attorneys for Matthew Soble said in the complaint.
Google has drawn regulatory scrutiny and pressure from consumer advocates for the way it handles personal information. Last year, it agreed to settle claims with the Federal Trade Commission that Google used deceptive tactics and violated its own privacy policies when it introduced its Buzz social- networking service in 2010.
The lawsuit follows the attention Google received after a Wall Street Journal published a story on a Stanford University graduate student found the largest Internet-search company had been dodging privacy settings in Safari. The student, Jonathan Meyer, posted his findings on his blog.
CBS correspondent John Blackstone interviewed Meyer about his research findings:
"The technology we were looking at involves taking what Google learned through organizing your information, and using that to enrich their advertising content on non-Google websites," said Meyer.
Blackstone posed a question: "Google's slogan: 'Do no evil.' Is this evil?
"I think it raises question about evil," said Meyer. "I hesitate to give a bright line response on the evil or not. I think if evil includes negligence and gross negligence, then this is evil."
In a statement, Google insists the tracking codes it planted "do not collect personal information." And that it "didn't anticipate this would happen" when it made changes to improve access to Google features on Safari.
Tracking user on-line habits is the most valuable information Internet companies and advertisers can get. John Simpson, a consumer advocate, said user preferences and information are what Google is selling. "Don't think of yourself as Google's customer, you are Google's product," he said.
Blackstone asked Meyer when he goes online, does he turn the privacy settings up full?
"For sure," Meyer replied. "I think it's pretty absurd. You shouldn't need a Ph.D. in computer science to protect yourself.”
The Washington Post reported on how Microsoft took the opportunity to criticize Google:
“Apparently, Google has been able to track users of Apple’s Safari browser while they surf the web on their Apple iPhones, iPads and Macs,” wrote Ryan Gavin, Microsoft’s general manager for Internet Explorer Business and Marketing in a company blog post. “This type of tracking by Google is not new. The novelty here is that Google apparently circumvented the privacy protections built into Apple’s Safari browser in a deliberate, and ultimately, successful fashion.”
Representatives Ed Markley (D-MA), Joe Barton (R-TX) and Cliff Stearns (R-FL) has called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Google, Inc. whether Google’s Safari tracking misrepresents its privacy policies.