Microsoft and Apple vs. Google over browser privacy

The companies say Google used loopholes in their browsers to track users' browsing history even when disabled.

By Trefis Feb 22, 2012 11:01AM

H-Gall/Vetta/Getty ImagesGoogle (GOOG) is facing yet another privacy complaint, this time about circumventing privacy settings in browsers despite user settings. First, it was Apple's (AAPL) Safari browser, and now Microsoft (MSFT) has alleged the same issues apply to its Internet Explorer browser.


This could be the start of more legal troubles for Google, with three U.S. lawmakers pushing for another Federal Trade Commission investigation into the company's operations. The repercussions of any such investigation could have a significant impact on Google's advertising revenues given that browsers like Safari have millions of users.


"Do No Evil:" Does that really apply anymore?

 

It is alleged that Google's tracking system used loopholes within certain browsers to track users' browsing history -- even if they have disabled it. The default privacy protocols on web browsers such as Safari and IE typically prevent small files known as "cookies" from being installed. This, in turn, safeguards any tracking by external ads.


Google allegedly circumvents this protection by relying on "exceptions" to this rule, namely any website with which users interact. The company seems to have added specific coding that makes users unknowingly interact with such a site, resulting in the installation of the cookie. The Wall Street Journal was the first to report this, also disclosing that this code was removed after the WSJ contacted Google about it.

 

A public relations mishap aside, this development could hamper Google's mobile ambitions, especially given that Safari commands a +50% market share in the mobile browser space. This could lead to mistrust among users as well as a possible legislation that bans such circumvention of browser privacy, either of which would mean a reduction in the potential reach of Google's advertisements. Not to mention, other leading browsers like the Opera Mini may also come up with similar allegations against the search giant.


Source: Net Market Share

 

We currently have a price estimate of near $627 for Google's stock, which is roughly 4% above the current market price.

3Comments
Feb 22, 2012 1:28PM
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Companies get the message real quick when their revenue and earnings are affected. To ensure they get the message people should boycott any company that advertises on Google. If this happens the advertisers will take their business elsewhere and it will hit Google in the wallet.

 

If they see ads on other sites they should find out if it is powered by Google, if so they should boycott those companies as well.

Feb 22, 2012 12:44PM
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"Do no evil" has never applied anytime in the history of the world.
Feb 22, 2012 1:37PM
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"Do no evil" has never applied anytime in the history of the world.

 

To have such an unctuous slogan, worthy of the Pharisee, says volumes about what the company actually does with both the time on its clock and the time in its mind.

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