Microsoft Claims Google IE Privacy Invasion

Microsoft claims that Google has bypassed Internet Explorer's privacy preferences. But whether this adds to Google's current privacy woes remains to be seen.

Microsoft is claiming that Google has bypassed the privacy preferences of Internet Explorer users.

€œWe€™ve found that Google bypasses the P3P Privacy Protection feature in IE,€ Dean Hachamovitch, corporate vice president of Internet Explorer, wrote in a Feb. 20 posting on the corporate Internet Explorer Blog. €œThe result is similar to the recent reports of Google€™s circumvention of privacy protections in Apple€™s Safari Web browser, even though the actual bypass mechanism Google uses is different.€

Hachamovitch then used the incident as a way to pump Internet Explorer 9, claiming its Tracking Protection feature is immune to the type of bypass allegedly attempted by Google. €œGiven this real-world behavior, we are investigating what additional changes to make to our products,€ he added.

Google has pushed back against the claim, telling CNN in an emailed statement that the P3P feature is €œimpractical€ to service €œwhile providing modern Web functionality.€

Google has caught some flak lately over its privacy policies. Starting March 1, the company plans to coalesce the privacy policies for some 60 products into one master policy, and allow its Web services to share user data with each other. While Google was open about the policy shift, it nonetheless attracted criticism from privacy advocates and government officials alike.

Congressmen also took an interest in reports of Google€™s cookie tracking on Apple€™s Safari Web browser. Although Safari is designed to prevent monitoring in the name of user privacy, Google and a handful of advertising companies figured out a way to trick the browser into allowing the tracking via advertising cookies; Google has claimed the tracking was inadvertent and that ad cookies did not collect personal information. It disabled the code in question Feb. 16, following a report on the matter in The Wall Street Journal.

€œGoogle€™s practices could have a sweeping impact because Safari is a major Web browser used by millions of Americans,€ Congressmen Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Joe Barton (R-Texas), and Cliff Sterns (R-Fla.) wrote in a note to the Federal Trade Commission. €œAs members of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, we are interested in any actions the FTC has taken or plans to take to investigate whether Google has violated the terms of its consent agreement.€

Whether Microsoft€™s claims further complicate things for Google remains to be seen.

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