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Google unlikely to back down amid lawsuits over privacy concerns

Christina DesMarais | Feb. 20, 2012
The latest attack is a lawsuit from an Illinois man worried about how his personal information is used -- but don't expect the Internet search leader to back down.

Google's privacy practices are under fire from lawmakers in Washington, civil liberties groups and the average Joe mobile phone owner -- the latest attack is a lawsuit from an Illinois man worried about how his personal information is used -- but don't expect the Internet search leader to back down.

Targeted advertising means big bucks for Google, so the company is unlikely to let up in its efforts to glean as much data about its users so it can push marketers their way and prompt lots of clicks.

Consider this: Google wants to know what you're doing online so much it will even pay for the information. Google recently started asking people to add a Chrome browser extension that will share their Web-browsing behavior with the company. In exchange, users will receive a $5 Amazon gift card when they sign up and additional $5 gift card values for every three months they continue to share.

There are ways you can protect your privacy.

-- You might try a recently released free tool that goes beyond what standard private browsing modes can do. Called Do Not Track Plus, it works with Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari and supposedly can also increase page load speeds by up to four times.

--And if you're a concerned Safari user, The Wall Street Journal has posted a helpful guide on how to know if you're being tracked, and how to block it.

If none of that works, you could always join the flood of lawsuits.

The latest: Attorneys representing Matthew Soble filed a class action federal suit against Google on Feb. 17 for violating user privacy on Apple's Safari Web browser. The suit says "Google's willful and knowing actions violated" federal wiretapping laws and other computer-related statutes, reports Bloomberg.

Soble's lawsuit, filed in Delaware, comes amid allegations in The Wall Street Journal that Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer discovered Google and other advertising companies have been using special code that fools Apple's Safari browser on mobile phones and computers into letting them track people's online activity using cookies. Normally, Safari blocks these third-party cookies that are used by most online advertising companies and used almost ubiquitously on websites.

Safari Privacy Breach

Google circumvented the way Safari blocks tracking cookies by placing a hidden web form inside an online ad with a +1 button, similar to Facebook "likes," on it. If someone using Safari clicks on the +1 button, the web form tells Safari that the person completed the form, when in fact she or he had not, thereby allowing Google to install the cookie.

Google says the whole debacle was unintended and it was only trying to provide features that Google users had enabled, such as sending +1s back to their Google+ profiles.

 

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