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Google Bypassed Safari Privacy Settings To Track User Data

(The Google logo is seen at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. on September 2, 2011.)

Photo by KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/Getty Images

All’s fair in love and tech war, apparently.

Google and other advertising companies have reportedly been sneaking past privacy settings on Apple’s Safari browser, tracking the online habits of millions of iPhone and Mac users with a secret code.

Safari—the most widely used browser on mobile devices—is supposed to block sending information by default. But a Stanford researcher spotted the code, and a separate consultant confirmed its existence, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Other ad companies Vibrant Media, Gannett’s PointRoll, and Media Innovation Group were found to be using similar strategies to track the browsing data of unknowing users, despite those users having elected for their information to be kept private.

Google replied that the discovery was a misunderstanding, saying their advertising cookies were enabled when Google users had signed in to the company’s services, and that they did not collect personal data. It just goes to show you: Online, privacy is a relative term.