Safari user sues Google, could become class action suit

22 Feb 2012

An Apple Safari browser user has sued Google over allegedly violating privacy rights by bypassing browser settings and monitoring user activity.

Bloomberg reports that an attorney representing Matthew Soble, a man from Illinois behind the lawsuit, said Google wilfully and knowingly violated federal wiretapping laws and other statutes. The lawsuit was filed in a federal court in Delaware.

Soble is seeking class action status for the lawsuit filed on behalf of those whose default privacy settings on Safari were, he claims, “knowingly circumvented by Google.”

The controversy arose after reports emerged claiming that Google, among others, used a special code to trick the Safari browser into allowing them to monitor user behaviour.

Rachel Whetstone, senior vice-president, Communications and Public Policy at Google, said Google used Safari functionality to provide features that signed in Google users had enabled.

She said the advertising cookies did not collect personal information and Google created a temporary communications link between Google and Safari browsers in order to determine who had signed in and what features they had enabled.

Internet Explorer

Microsoft also weighed in, claiming Google circumvented the privacy settings on its Internet Explorer browser to track users.

However, Google hit back at these claims, saying IE used “outdated” P3P Privacy Protection technology which made it “impractical” to comply with Microsoft’s privacy requests while providing “modern web functionality.” It pointed out that other websites didn’t comply with this, too, including Facebook.

Later, Facebook appeared to back up Google’s claims, telling ZDNet that while it would like to set its own cookie policy in a browser-readable format, it said P3P was developed five years ago and is “not effective in describing the practices of a modern social networking service and platform.”

Instead, Facebook posted a public notice saying its practices were consistent with Section 3.2 of P3P and it has reached out to Microsoft to develop additional solutions for this matter.