In a very descriptive post at SAI, Henry Blodget explains exactly what it was that Google was doing and how it may not have been as bad as the Wall Street Journal had pointed out. In a nutshell, despite the cookie setting, their are some sites that browsers see as trusted sites that are allowed to drop cookies for the users convenience.
Sites like Facebook, Apple.com, gmail.com etc, are allowed to put cookies into users browsers so that the user can stay online on the site. If not, as Blodget points out, the users would think something was broken because they had to sign in to Facebook every time they went back to the site.
Google’s sites, like gmail.com are of course trusted sites, however their Double Click ad serving site is probably not a trusted site. A group of Google engineers used a known work around in Safari so that Google could drop cookies in to help Double Click. For more on this visit Blodget’s post here.
Find the statement from Google After the break
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.
Unlike other major browsers, Apple’s Safari browser blocks third-party cookies by default. However, Safari enables many web features for its users that rely on third parties and third-party cookies, such as “Like” buttons. Last year, we began using this functionality to enable features for signed-in Google users on Safari who had opted to see personalized ads and other content–such as the ability to “+1” things that interest them.
To enable these features, we created a temporary communication link between Safari browsers and Google’s servers, so that we could ascertain whether Safari users were also signed into Google, and had opted for this type of personalization. But we designed this so that the information passing between the user’s Safari browser and Google’s servers was anonymous–effectively creating a barrier between their personal information and the web content they browse.
However, the Safari browser contained functionality that then enabled other Google advertising cookies to be set on the browser. We didn’t anticipate that this would happen, and we have now started removing these advertising cookies from Safari browsers. It’s important to stress that, just as on other browsers, these advertising cookies do not collect personal information.
Users of Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome were not affected. Nor were users of any browser (including Safari) who have opted out of our interest-based advertising program using Google’s Ads Preferences Manager.