Judge dismisses case against Google over Safari user tracking

“It just got even tougher to stop a company from tracking your movements online,” Elizabeth Dwoskin and Rolfe Winkler report for The Wall Street Journal.

“A federal judge in Delaware Wednesday dismissed a class-action lawsuit brought against Google and two other tech companies, arguing that the Web users who brought the case couldn’t prove that Google’s tracking practices caused them harm,” Dwoskin and Winkler report. “The plaintiffs were users of web browsers from Apple and Microsoft, which have settings that block ‘cookies,’ the tiny pieces of code placed on computers to track users’ movements as they browse the Internet.”

“The plaintiffs alleged that Google, and online advertisers Vibrant Media and the Media Innovation Group, had ‘tricked’ the browsers into accepting cookies, and as a result were subject to targeted ads,” Dwoskin and Winkler report. “U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson wrote that the companies had circumvented the browsers’ settings, allowing users’ personal information to be sold to ad companies. But the judge said that the plaintiffs couldn’t show that they suffered because the companies collected and sold their information.”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
UK Apple Safari users sue Google for secretly tracking Web browsing – January 28, 2013
Google pays $22.5 million to settle charges of bypassing Apple Safari privacy settings – August 9, 2012
US FTC votes to fine Google $22.5 million for bypassing Safari privacy settings; Settlement allows Google to admit no liability – July 31, 2012
Google’s D.C. lobbyists have outspent Apple nearly 10 to 1 so far this year – July 23, 2012
Google to pay $22.5 million to settle charges over bypassing privacy settings of millions of Apple users – July 10, 2012
Apple’s anti-user tracking policy has mobile advertisers scrambling – May 9, 2012
Google said to be negotiating amount of U.S. FTC fine over Apple Safari breach – May 4, 2012
Cookies and privacy, Google and Safari – February 25, 2012
Obama’s privacy plan puts pinch on Google – February 24, 2012
Obama administration outlines online privacy guidelines – February 23, 2012
Google sued by Apple Safari-user for bypassing browser privacy – February 21, 2012
Google responds to Microsoft over privacy issues, calls IE’s cookie policy ‘widely non-operational’ – February 21, 2012
Google’s tracking of Safari users could prompt FTC investigation – February 18, 2012
WSJ: Google tracked iPhone, iPad users, bypassing Apple’s Safari browser privacy settings; Microsoft denounces – February 17, 2012

37 Comments

    1. The 4th Amendment protects ud from unreasonable search and seizure by the Government. It doesn’t protect us from outright theft of personal information. The fact that we don’t want something to happen and have taken steps to prevent it isn’t relevant to our corporate overlords. The only way to bring Google down is to bring Google down. Unfortunately, that would require a significant number of people that just don’t get it to be active.

      1. There ARE excellent cookie management applications that successfully kill all tracking cookies. I don’t get Google targeted ads specifically because Google can’t track me.

        1) DoNotTrackMe by Abine sort of gets you going. It blocks tracking cookies on the fly.

        2) I am told that Cookie Stumbler works fine and has decent features. The problem is having to pay for updates to it’s blacklist, which I find to be bizarre and questionable. It has a stripped down Safari extension version if you want to try it out.

        3) I use ‘Cookie’. I paid once, it just keeps working. It addresses most aspects of what is theorized to be the ‘Ever Cookie’, the many ways you can be tracked online. It’s well worth the cost and is regularly updated. It has some occasional clunkiness but I like it. You have total control, set up your own white list of sites, kill off all non-white list and all tracking cookies via a timer you control. It’s all I need. There is a free stripped down Safari extension version for free called “Safari Cookies” if you want to give it a go.

        There are some older and less functional cookie control apps. Don’t bother.

        IOW: The corporation surveillance of our activities on the Internet need not be the default scenario of our lives.

        Yes, there are still further ways for us to be tracked, but I doubt anyone but the US Constitution breaking NSA (or a similar foreign entity) is going to go that maniacal. If you would like to berzerk such entities, be sure to drop trigger words here and there as you surf the tubes.

    1. It’s not the judge, it’s the law. USA has very few privacy protections, or at least protections that have been updated for the digital age.

      Congress does a lot of talking about it but, as usual, nothing ever gets done.

      1. The reason for the Talk-But-Do-Nothing Congress crap is that our Corporate Oligarchy WANTS to track us all over the net. From their point of view we are vermin that steal their media and give it away to other vermin. AKA no respect for their customers; Default criminals are us; AKA an incentive for customer retribution known as piracy. (The CO is stupid like that, inspiring the criminal behavior they attempt to stop).

        There have been a bunch of attempts by the CO to shove anti-privacy laws down our throats, such as CISPA (still pending in the USA), SOPA/PIPA (which USA public outrage killed), and ACTA/TPPA internationally.

        As usual:
        Eternal vigilance is the price we pay for liberty
        – Thomas Jefferson, quoted verbatim.

  1. The went about it all wrong they should gave gone after them for profiting from stealing information they had not given them permission to use. As there was no quantifiable harm, but there was a crime.

    1. To be fair, it’s how Google rake in the money. The ‘free’ stuff we get to use is paid for by successful advertising click-throughs. Therefore, they want our attention and clicking. Fine. Of course the problem is what else happens to our surveillance data. We know as fact now that the NSA uses Google data as well, sometimes for good, sometimes in their efforts to subvert the US 4th Amendment, which is evil.

  2. Here at Trevor Philips Industries we advertise with Google all the time. If it weren’t for Google’s advertising services. 90% of our customers wouldn’t know how to find us.

    I think some loss of privacy in exchange for free services (to the consumer) is a fair price to pay for using Google services. if advertising companies were not allowed to collect user data, how will we know how well we were doing in terms of marketing dollars spent.

    I have a suggestion for people who value their Internet privacy: live in North Korea. As far as I know there are no telemarketers in Pyongyang.

    1. The problem is that Google tracks everyone who run across their ads, not just users of their free services.

      I’ve not been a Google user for over a year now, opted out of everything they let me and still in this case they have found a way of inserting tracking cookies into my browser!

      1. Sorry if this gets double posted…..

        From the New York Times (via Daring Fireball):

        On Friday, Google announced an update to its terms of service that allows the company to include adult users’ names, photos and comments in ads shown across the Web, based on ratings, reviews and posts they have made on Google Plus and other Google services like YouTube.

        When the new ad policy goes live Nov. 11, Google will be able to show what the company calls shared endorsements on Google sites and across the Web, on the more than two million sites in Google’s display advertising network, which are viewed by an estimated one billion people.

        As Gruber remarks, it will be interesting to see how the Google fans explain how this is acceptable….

        1. If Google pull this marketing-moron stunt, there shall be OUTRAGE. I almost want to dare them to try just to watch the backlash and damage to their company image. Decent, customer respecting companies don’t pull crap like that.

    2. Dear Trevor Philips Industries:
      Since you don’t purchase my computer and pay for my Internet service provider, you have absolutely no right to access it to sell your crap. (This is a variation of my telemarketer speech.)

  3. That is not right! These people need to pay the NSA for our information just like the rest of the low life blood suckers have too. Unless, they work for the right people in the right party or as donators have already prepaid for access to our information. If that doesn’t work, the Chinese hacker can supply you the information for a price.

  4. Complete Crock!

    Google made $BILLIONS in ad dollars selling our information, yet the judge can see no value in our private information?

    I felt so violated, and so paranoid about the IP searches I was doing at the time that I have eliminated Google to the greatest extent possible from my workflow. I can not understand how any business or company would allow the use of Google products in the workplace.

  5. From the NY Times (via Daring Fireball):

    On Friday, Google announced an update to its terms of service that allows the company to include adult users’ names, photos and comments in ads shown across the Web, based on ratings, reviews and posts they have made on Google Plus and other Google services like YouTube.

    When the new ad policy goes live Nov. 11, Google will be able to show what the company calls shared endorsements on Google sites and across the Web, on the more than two million sites in Google’s display advertising network, which are viewed by an estimated one billion people.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/12/technology/google-sets-plan-to-sell-users-endorsements.html?_r=0

    As Gruber remarks, it will be interesting to see how the Google fans explain how this is acceptable.

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