The Wall Street Journal is reporting this morning that Stanford Researcher, Jonathan Mayer, has found that Google has been tracking cookies on Apple’s Safari browser even after users turn cookies off. The illicit cookies have been allegedly found on both Mac computers and iPhones.
The Wall Street Journal alleges that these cookies appeared invisible to users. Google could then control the cookies to store additional user information including Google login information. These secret cookies tricked Safari into thinking that a user was interacting with ads from Googles Double Click ad service. Once the fake interactions were logged Google was able to monitor the users online behavior.
More after the break
Google is not alone in this alleged trickery, ad networks Vibrant Media and Point Roll have been using the same loophole to capture users information.
The Journal poled advertisers AT&T and it’s own external ad unit who were both oblivious to the fact this was happening.
“We were not aware of this behavior,” said Michael Balmoris, AT&T Inc. spokesman. Google’s code was found on AT&T’s YellowPages.com. “We would never condone it,” he said.
Google has disputed the claims from the Wall Street Journal and said that the Journal has mischaracterized the practice telling the Business Insider:
“The Journal mischaracterizes what happened and why. We used known Safari functionality to provide features that signed-in Google users had enabled. It’s important to stress that these advertising cookies do not collect personal information.”
While Apple is investigating the matter, Google has stopped using this technique.