Web

Internet Explorer grasping at straws and trying to accuse Google of evading its privacy policies

google microsoft

In the wake of Google’s Safari cookie placing, Microsoft decided to investigate whether it had fallen subject to the same privacy scam. Turns out, it had. The IE team has also accused Google of circumventing its privacy settings in order to trace users’ activity. In all the Google finger-pointing, you might assume it’s been planting cookies in some devious and well-planned manner, but the cases are actually quite different — and in one it seems that the accusers are possibly trying to ride the latest anti-Google sentiment. 

What Google did

Just because both IE and Safari fell victim to the same Google tactics doesn’t mean the process was the same. With Safari, Google was apparently installing temporary cookies when users clicked +1 on ads. These would expire after a few hours, but it would allow Google to track user activity without that time frame and that information was sent to its DoubleClick ad network.

Safari is particularly cookie-blocking heavy, so it’s especially notable that Google found a way to work-around the browser. So not only should users be put out by Google’s alleged privacy infringement, but it also makes Apple look bad. It’s made a notable effort to quell privacy fears and it unknowingly participating in tracking.

Microsoft has announced its browser was also victim to Google’s user tracking. “By default, IE blocks third-party cookies unless the site presents a P3P Compact Policy Statement indicating how the site will use the cookie and that the site’s use does not include tracking the use,” says Microsoft. “Google P3P policy causes Internet Explorer to accept Google’s cookies even though the policy does not state Google’s intent.” Basically, P3P is an explanation shared between Web applications and browsers about what they will be doing with cookies that install and the information thereupon obtained. “By supporting P3P, browsers can block or allow cookies to honor user privacy preferences with respect to the site’s stated intentions,” Microsoft explains.

And according to the company, Google is just outright denying to follow the rules of the P3P standard. “Google sends a P3P policy that fails to inform the browser about Google’s use of cookies and user information. Google’s P3P policy is actually a statement that it is not a P3P policy.”

To break this into bullet points:

  • IE allows cookies if a browser communicates via P3P what it’s going to use them for.
  • Google flat out doesn’t do this.

Google’s defense

For each case, Google has very different responses. In the case of Safari, Google actually pled innocence and explained that its motives were actually in the right – the mechanism was supposed to keep users anonymous while Safari was interacting with Google’s servers. Tracking was a side effect.

“We didn’t anticipate that this would happen, and we have now started removing these advertising cookies from Safari bowers,” a Google representative said. “It’s important to stress that, just as on other browsers, these advertising cookies do not collect personal information.”

But Google isn’t taking that route with IE. Instead, Google is calling the Microsoft browser outdated for insisting on the use of a P3P agreement. “Microsoft uses a ‘self-declaration’ protocol (known as ‘P3P’) dating from 2002 under which Microsoft asks Websites to represent their privacy practices in machine-readable form,” Google tell us. “It is well known – including by Microsoft – that it is impractical to comply with Microsoft’s request while providing modern Web functionality. We have been open about our approach, as have many other Websites.”

The company says some 11,000 other Websites do not follow the P3P protocol IE is describing.

Who’s wrong?

However, none of those 11,000 others are Google. Things are different when you’re a major gateway to the Internet and one that has consistently been accused of less than exemplary behavior time and time again.

And in the Safari incident, Google was correct to immediately back up, take blame, and try to fix it. Does this make Google look bad? Absolutely. It’s a company that is already the subject of unending privacy concerns, and now there’s yet another incident to chalk up to Google’s prying ways.

You’d think that given its quick backpedaling with Safari, Google would do the same with IE. But instead, it’s coming out with guns blazing – and that’s because Microsoft seems overly intent on cashing in on Google missteps. Earlier this month, the folks over at Redmond PR jumped all over the chance to rub the fallout over Google’s new privacy policy in its face with a series of ads in major newspapers.

Jumping on with the latest Google privacy mishap feels a little too quick and a little like grasping at straws. Many different Web mechanisms don’t follow P3P policies – the Facebook Like button, for example. It’s an old mechanism and one that simply isn’t as relevant as it used to be. If Microsoft is going to wage war with Google over this, then it has to take on every other platform that’s ignoring P3P as well. Other sites that don’t P3P to summarize their privacy terms includes Twitter, Apple, and CNN.

We’re sure every browser is doing their own Google investigation right now, as well they should be. Google is competition and being able to catch it in the act is something every Web company wants to do. But it shouldn’t come down to this. We’re going to have to side with Firefox in this whole mess: earlier this month, the minds over at Mozilla decided to create a new infrastructure based on color-coded icons to announce how intrusive a Web site is. It’s a solution fraught with its own problems, but at least it’s attempting to make heads of an increasingly complicated environment instead of hitching a ride on the bandwagon and pointing fingers (at least, so far). 

Computing

Chrome 70 is now available and won’t automatically log you in to the browser

Google has officially launched Chrome version 70 on Windows Mac and Linux. The update introduces some new Progressive Web App integrations on Windows 10 and also tweaks the much controversial auto login with Google Account feature.
Emerging Tech

Ekster 3.0 lets you ask, ‘Alexa, where did I leave my wallet?’

Ekster's newest smart wallet is its best yet. It's slimmer than ever, boasts a neat card-dispensing mechanism, and will even let you know where it is, thanks to smart speaker integration.
Computing

Your ‘Do Not Track’ tool might be helping websites track you, study says

New research from the "Do Not Track" features embedded in popular browsers are being ignored, opening up the possibility of consumers having their information targeted by specific ads based on their web histories and cookies. 
Computing

Spoof Adobe Flash updaters are inserting cryptocurrency mining malware

As part of these attacks, bogus Adobe updaters go on to legitimately update Flash Player and throw users to an official website on completion. Unfortunately, they also embed an "XMRig" mining bot in the process.
Social Media

Sick of Facebook privacy scandals? Here's how to protect your personal data

With a number of security scandals in 2018, it has us questioning if we should get rid of Facebook. Here's how to protect your personal data without deleting your account, as well as how to just nuke the thing altogether.
Computing

Google Slides now auto-transcribes verbal presentations for real-time captions

A new feature for the Google Slides presentation software uses a computer's built-in microphone to transcribe the words of a speaker in real time, displaying them for everyone to see.
Mobile

PayPal will soon let you withdraw cash at Walmart, but there’s a catch

PayPal has teamed up with Walmart to allow its account holders to withdraw and deposit cash at the store. The service launches at all Walmart stores across the U.S. in early November, but there's a catch.
Mobile

Pixel 3, Home Hub, and Pixel Slate — our first look at all Google’s new devices

Google has taken the wraps off of a slew of new devices, including the Pixel 3 smartphones, Google Home Hub smart display, Google Pixel Slate tablet, and more. We were at the event, and took a ton of photos of all of Google's new products.
Music

Spotify vs. Pandora: Which music streaming service is better for you?

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.
Computing

Here's how to download a YouTube video to watch offline later

Learning how to download YouTube videos is easier than you might think. There are plenty of great tools you can use, both online and offline. These are our favorites and a step by step guide on how to use them.
Cars

Carbuying can be exhausting: Here are the best used car websites to make it easier

Shopping for a used car isn't easy, especially when the salesman is looking to make a quick sale. Thankfully, there are plenty of sites aimed at the prospective buyer, whether you're looking for a sedan or a newfangled hybrid.
Computing

How to recover Google contacts

If you accidentally deleted an important person from your Google Contacts, they might not be lost forever. Recovering them is a fairly easy process -- as long as you do it quickly. Here's how.
Computing

Afraid that Bitcoin could be a bubble? Here's how to sell what you've got

If you're investing in cryptocurrencies, it's important to have your exit strategy in place if prices start to crash. If you've decided it's time to get out or just want to learn how to sell Bitcoins, here's how to get started.
Computing

Don't take your ISP's word for it: Here's how to test your internet speed

If you're worried that you aren't getting the most from your internet package, speed tests are a great way to find out what your real connection is capable of. Here are the best internet speed tests available today.