Google and other ad companies have been tricking iOS Safari into accepting ad cookies, regardless of security settings

Internet giant Google found itself in a middle of a potential public relations nightmare following a Wall Street Journal article this morning. Tentatively titled “Google’s iPhone Tracking,” the article asserts that “Google Inc. and other advertising companies have been bypassing the privacy settings of millions of people using Apple Inc.’s Web browser on their iPhones and computers” to follow iPhone users even after they explicitly set Safari’s privacy controls to disable such tracking. According to authors Julia Angwin and Jennifer Valentino-Devries, Google used “special computer code that tricks Apple’s Safari Web-browsing software into letting them monitor many users.” Google apparently disabled the problematic code after the newspaper contacted the Mountain View, Calif.-based Company.

Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer discovered that although mobile Safari’s default setting blocks cookies from third parties and advertisers, Google and advertising companies Media Innovation Group, Vibrant Media, and Gannett PointRoll fooled mobile Safari into thinking “a person was submitting an invisible form to Google,” letting them in turn install a tracking cookie on users’ iPhones and PCs without consent.

Once a cookie installed, a Safari glitch allowed subsequent cookies to attach. Both Google and Apple issued statements following this morning’s report…

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