Now it’s swinging at Google while the company’s down by attacking the search giant for bypassing user privacy settings in Internet Explorer. This, of course, comes after all of the drama with Apple’s Safari, when Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer discovered that Google bypassed that browser’s privacy settings to track users across the web using cookies.
Techland’s own Jared Newman thought it was much ado about nothing, writing “considering that most desktop browsers allow third-party tracking cookies by default, lots of people who don’t use Safari were already subjected to tracking by Google and other companies.”
Still, it rubbed people the wrong way. Apparently, brouhaha surrounding the Safari snafu made Microsoft feel all introspective:
When the IE team heard that Google had bypassed user privacy settings on Safari, we asked ourselves a simple question: is Google circumventing the privacy preferences of Internet Explorer users too?
Oh the intrigue! (The answer, by the way, is “yes”). Microsoft pointed out that Google bypasses Internet Explorer’s P3P Privacy Protection by presenting its third-party cookies as first-party cookies. Microsoft then presented users with some helpful hints on how to “protect their privacy from Google.”
Google didn’t take this lying down. Rachel Whetstone, the company’s senior vice president of communications and policy, released a statement saying that Internet Explorer’s policy was “widely non-operational” and impractical, noting that the protection broke plenty of common features including Facebook’s “Likes.” Whetstone then referenced a Facebook post that succinctly pointed out the flaws of P3P:
The organization that established P3P, the World Wide Web Consortium, suspended its work on this standard several years ago because most modern web browsers do not fully support P3P. As a result, the P3P standard is now out of date and does not reflect technologies that are currently in use on the web, so most websites currently do not have P3P policies.
While I’m not sure “We worked around Internet Explorer’s privacy protections because they’re stupid” will hold up in the court of public opinion, both Google and Facebook have valid points. In the end, Microsoft comes out of this looking petty, as it did with its initial “We’re the anti-Google” ad campaign.
There are major privacy concerns at play when it comes to Google; this, by comparison, is small potatoes. In the end, blowing things out of proportion only makes Microsoft look bad.