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Saturday, March 17, 2012
FTC, EU Investigate Google's 'Violation' of Apple Users' Privacy

The Federal Trade Commission and European regulators are investigating Google for violating the online privacy choices of consumers using the Safari web browser on Apple computers, iPhones and iPads.

A recent study by Jonathan Mayer of Stanford University's Security Lab, and the Center for Internet and Society, found that Google has been circumventing a privacy setting in Apple's Safari web browser. Like most web browsers, Safari provides the option not to receive third-party "cookies." Blocking third-party cookies is supposed to prevent such tracking. Safari is the primary browser on the iPhone and iPad.

Google has developed a so-called browser "plugin" for Internet Explorer, Firefox and Google Chrome that makes the opt-out persistent. Google has not developed a plugin for Safari. The advice Google gave Safari users follows:

"While we don't yet have a Safari version of the Google advertising cookie opt-out plugin, Safari is set by default to block all third-party cookies. If you have not changed those settings, this option effectively accomplishes the same thing as setting the opt-out cookie."

Later Google said it would will cooperate with any investigations.

"We will of course cooperate with any officials who have questions," said Chris Gaither, a spokesman for Google, which has acknowledged it placed the advertising cookies on Safari after opening a connection to give signed-in users access to a Google function. "But it's important to remember that we didn't anticipate this would happen."

European regulators are already reviewing Google's new privacy policy, which was put in place March 1 to streamline privacy settings for its services and products.

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