Microsoft accuses Google of manipulating Internet Explorer privacy system

Google faces yet another chapter in its Google+-related soap opera: now, it was Microsoft’s turn to accuse the company of “cheating” the Internet Explorer browser to manipulate and install cookies that allow it to personalize advertisements for the user, in addition to promoting the social network Google+ – even if the installation is disabled. Previously, a report by The Wall Street Journal revealed that the company did the same with Apple’s Safari.

For those who do not know, cookies are files that allow the website to track the surfing of the Internet user to understand what their preferences are. Then, they show ads customized according to the interests of each user. Some browsers, such as Safari, block the installation of these files in the browser in order to protect the individual’s privacy.

According to the CNET, in the case of Internet Explorer, the browser receives all sites from a file with the PSP specification, which indicates the purpose of installing cookies in the browser. Depending on the type of purpose specified, IE lets the site install the files. The one that Microsoft’s accusation against Google enters: the company claims that the sites send a fake file in place of the PSP to “cheat” and circumvent the browser’s security tools, thus installing the data, even without permission of the user.

To prevent Google from continuing with the practice, Microsoft has released a list of protection against tracking, which should be added by Internet users to Internet Explorer. The service will prevent the browser from sending information about browsing to Google sites. However, it is worth remembering that the feature only works up to the eighth version of IE, and that changes in IE 9 (and in the future IE 10) will be made to prevent similar problems.

In response to the accusations, Rachel Whetstone, senior vice president of communications and policies at Google, sent a statement to CNET. “It is well known – including at Microsoft – that it is impracticable to fulfill their request at the same time that we will offer increasingly modern web functionality. We are being open about our stance, just as we were with several other sites”.

Google also claims that according to a survey conducted in 2011, more than 11,000 Internet sites do not send P3P files in accordance with Internet Explorer privacy requirements.

Google “cheats” Safari

A report by The Wall Street Journal published last Friday (17/02) revealed that Google used a code on its pages to circumvent the privacy settings of the Safari browser, used on the iPhone, iPad and Mac and Windows computers. According to the newspaper, the code was used to allow Google users to “like” ads using the +1 button, from the Google+ social network (similar to Facebook’s “like” function).

By default, the Safari browser blocks almost all methods of tracking users, but does not prevent tracking on pages with which the Internet user interacts – such as filling out forms, for example. The WSJ points out that Google exploited this loophole to create a code that sent a fake form with no content, just to allow cookies to be sent to the browser.

Matthew Soble, an Internet user from Illinois (USA), sued the company for violating the personal data of Safari users by defeating the rules for installing cookies. Soble hired lawyers who filed a lawsuit against the search company. “This is an intentional Google action, which knows the policies it violated,” said Soble.

In a statement sent by its advisory, Google said that the report misinterprets what happened. According to the company, the use of known Safari features is only to promote services that Google users have enabled, previously logged into their respective accounts, and that the advertising cookies used have not collected personal information.

In addition, Google explains that the device was used to enable Internet users logged into their Google profiles to view personalized ads, in addition to other content – such as the chance to “+1” on subjects that interest them.

Internet Security Browsers Microsoft Google Apple browser Internet Explorer Internet Explorer 9 Safari privacy Google+ Online advertising

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