Microsoft Says Google Secretly Planted Cookies in Internet Explorer Too

Illustration for article titled Microsoft Says Google Secretly Planted Cookies in Internet Explorer Too

Fresh off the report that Google was bypassing the privacy settings of Safari users by installing cookies that could track browsing habits, Microsoft has discovered that Google has been doing the same thing on Internet Explorer. This is not good.

According to Microsoft VP Dean Hachamovitch, after the Safari Google cookies snafu hit, the Internet Explorer team discovered that Google was "employing similar methods to get around the default privacy protections in IE and track IE users with cookies" too. Microsoft has found that Google bypasses the P3P Privacy Protection feature in IE to track users. Google is breaking the rules:

Google utilizes a nuance in the P3P specification that has the effect of bypassing user preferences about cookies. The P3P specification (in an attempt to leave room for future advances in privacy policies) states that browsers should ignore any undefined policies they encounter. Google sends a P3P policy that fails to inform the browser about Google's use of cookies and user information. Google's P3P policy is actually a statement that it is not a P3P policy. It's intended for humans to read even though P3P policies are designed for browsers to "read"

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Basically, Google wrongfully bypasses the protection and enables its cookies to be allowed rather than blocked. Thus allowing Google to track the browsing habits of Internet Explorer users. In the mean time, Microsoft has made a Tracking Protection List to protect IE9 users from Google. The list can be found here. [IE Blog]

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DISCUSSION

It never ceases to amaze me how flippant people are about this kind of thing. "Oh, it's just the websites I've visited. Big deal. I like ads that know what I want." It's akin to someone following you around the mall all day, recording what stores you visited, what you bought and looked at, etc. It's not ok for someone to collect that data about you if you don't want them to. The issue is that companies are determined to get this data, and are finding ways to circumvent you when you attempt to stop them. Some of you seem to think this data is harmless. It's not. One user already brought up the "myspousehascancer.com" example. What if your husband or parents sees targeted ads for the morning after pill or planned parenthood? What's that? They didn't know you were pregnant? Well, they do now. What's really at stake here is do you have the right to hide details about your life from businesses at large.

The internet being relatively new, this current generation is going to have to define the ethics of it. I think we should be able to opt out of being tracked. Actually, I think any kind of tracking should be opt in only. Currently, that means not using any of Google's services. That's difficult to do for most people. They have a good email service, operate the largest video sharing service, and created what is arguably the best search engine in existence. As a consumer, you're under no obligation to use their products, but also as a consumer, you have the ability to shape their services to what you want. If you're ok with this data about you being collected, fine. I think you're a fool, but that's your prerogative. Just remember there are frequently unintended consequences, and I think this is no exception.