Editorial

If you spy on me, at least do it openly

It's easy to blame Apple for the breach of their users privacy due to a flaw in their Safari browser. After all, you might reason, they wrote the software, and it's their fault for not finding the bug sooner. But that's really not a fair way of looking at it. Sure, you could argue that the world isn't fair, either, and therefore you aren't obligated to look at anything fairly, but I reject that argument: the blame falls mainly on Google and the others involved.

Why, you ask, do I single out Google? Other companies, like Gannett and Vibrant, were involved, too, weren't they? Don't get me wrong, those are fairly well known companies, but they don't come close to the level of ubiquity that Google has achieved in the life of the average person. Google is a Fortune 500 Company, but they're not acting like it. No, not at all; they're acting like Eastern European hackers. Not that I have anything against Eastern Europeans - it's just that there are a lot of hackers there. Just ask Wired.

At this point you may be wondering what the hell I am talking about. Let me explain. A few days ago, as loyal readers of Neowin will no doubt know, Google's dirty laundry spilled out into the open when it was alleged that they, along with the others I've already mentioned and some more besides, have been exploiting a bug in Apple's Safari browser and tracking users without their consent. You'd think a company who's privacy policy has been at the center of so much controversy might be just a tiny bit more careful, but that would require Google to change their whole business model, which isn't happening any time soon.

There's no such thing as perfect software. All of it has bugs, no matter who made it, no matter how hard they tried to make it perfect, flaws inevitably slip in. This is especially true of browsers. IE has bugs, Safari has bugs, and yes, children, so does Chrome. From time to time, companies happen to run across such bugs while building software for platforms other than their own. In such situations, it is considered ethical to kindly inform the software maker of their error, so that it may be promptly patched, even if they happen to be your rival. It's just good manners, and it's good for the industry as a whole.

In this case, Google happened to find a bug in Safari which allowed them to trick the browser into accepting cookies without permission by tricking the browser into thinking the user was trying to submit a form, which they weren't. Rather than telling Apple so they could fix it, Google took a play from identity thieves and malware makers and decided to exploit the bug to their non-evil heart's content.

Some folks may rise to Google's defense, either because they don't see the problem here (doubtful), because they really love Google (possible), or because they really hate Apple (likely). I'm not trying to defend anyone here, and the only agenda that I have is that of a person who happens to value his privacy, thank you very much. Maybe it's dead to you, but not me. I intend to take the comforting blanket of privacy with me to my grave.

There's no two ways about it: Google did a very bad thing here. Anything else is just denial. I've been uncomfortable with Google's constant prying before, but at least I knew about it then. Doing something like this behind everyone's back is a different matter entirely, and it makes you wonder what other kinds of nasty tricks are going on behind the glass walls at Mountain View. Microsoft has pointed out that IE9 doesn't have any such flaws, and I certainly hope that's true, but if it did, do you think Google would let anyone know?

Telling your customers you are keeping track of what they do so you can feed them targeted ads is one thing, but you simply do not exploit a bug to gain more information about them. No ifs, ands, or buts.

So shame on you, Google, and everyone else who was involved in this. When you found the flaw in Safari, you should have alerted Apple immediately so it could be patched. But no! You decided to screw your customers out of their private information behind their backs.

Google Is Watching You image by Dr. Nour

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rippleman said,
google and apple are the VERY COOLEST things for the latest "HATE FAD"... fads come and go...

Just like trolls like you. You come in here, troll, and then go. Ha!

I've been on the edge with Google last 2 years.
I've been wanting to track how many KB they been stealing from me and send them a bill charging them for the amount they SNOOPED UP! 1 KB = $ 1... Nah more!

Yep, it's true: Google are the next Microsoft. They said they wouldn't be, but they are. Which is a shame, because some of the things they do are great, like the SPDY project. But it's not the developers -- they just seem to have a really corrupted management.

Meph said,
Yep, it's true: Google are the next Microsoft. They said they wouldn't be, but they are. Which is a shame, because some of the things they do are great, like the SPDY project. But it's not the developers -- they just seem to have a really corrupted management.

Ironically, the 'evil' Microsoft wasn't even the 'Microsoft' people believed it was. Microsoft has never invaded privacy, and has jumped through hoops to try to kill any concern.

When Windows started offering 'feedback' on crashes to Microsoft, they created a massive automated non-human accessible system that obfuscated any non machine code crash related information. Yet people claimed Microsoft was 'spying' on them.

Even in the 90s, they were not the Bully or even technically a monopoly. It it wasn't for Orin Hatch and key industry players like Oracle, Dell, IBM, Sun, Novel, and Netscape there would have never been an investigation. These companies had motive and were greedy, it was more about their market losses to Microsoft because their products sucked than anything Microsoft was doing.

Dell was greedy as they wanted the better OEM deals, and then when customers complained, they blamed Microsoft. Dell was NOT forced to lock into an exclusive OS distribution contract.
*Which was common in the computing industry, and IBM used the same contracts for OS/2, but most OEMs wouldn't sign with IBM.

Out of the entire investigation of looking through millions of emails, they found a 'handful' of emails where employees and managers were angry with a company, which is very common in any company.

As for the DR-DOS issues, Microsoft had a few technical reasons to circumvent compatibility as any changes would have created a support nightmare for Microsoft. Windows was their software, if they didn't want it to run on DR-DOS, that was their choice, just like if I don't want my software to run on another platform, I can include code to prevent it from working on other platforms. This is not illegal, this is what developers do when they do not want the hassle of supporting an environment that they did not design their software to work. (Windows was moving to new internal 32bit memory handling and 32bit FS access, and there was no way Microsoft could guarantee DR-DOS would continue to work if there were changes in DR-DOS or updates to Windows.)
*And Microsoft paid them $155 Million in a settlement, that without the anti-trust compounded legal issues, Microsoft could have won against DR-DOS. (And $155 Million is more than DR-DOS could have possibly ever made during that timeframe.)

Microsoft tried to get Wordperfect and Lotus to write 'Windows' versions of their software, I remember the private and public correspondence between the companies, where Microsoft even offer to help financially support and give them access to developers to assist in creating a Windows version of the products. Both companies told Microsoft to go pound sand, and refused the help. A year later, When Word and Excel was 'patched' to run on Windows 3.x, the sales started to hurt Wordperfect and Lotus. (Word and Excel didn't even run on Windows 3.x for a long time, as Microsoft was always more focused on the Mac versions, as that is where Word and Excel made money. You could boot into 'real' mode and run the Windows 386/2.0 Word and Excel, but it was a nightmare.)

Then when Wordperfect did release a Windows Version, they bypassed the Windows font and printing systems, shipping their own printer drivers even, and it was buggy and horrible. So they blamed Microsoft for undocumented APIs, which if they had written Wordperfect to just use the Windows printing model, they wouldn't have had the problems, as the APIs were irrelevant, and easily discoverable if they freaking opened the DLLs like everyone else did.

Microsoft hasn't been perfect, but 'trying' to do the right thing has been more of their mission that people realize. Gates is an ethical person, and money always has meant very little to him. He was driven to expose people to technology and get computers in the hands of more people easier. Which he accomplished. (People forget that before getting married and building his house, he was worth Billions and yet still lived in the same Apartment for years.)

I was more referring to the IE6 fiasco, but still, that was very interesting. Thanks for writing that. And you're right. Thanks to the media, it's affected popular belief of what they're actually like.

Who *really* cares who tracks what? We all know we're being tracked, and has for years, so the only way to not get tracked is to be overly paranoid and use layers of protection - kinda like using five condoms at once while having sex. It works, but is bloody annoying and not very comfortable. I say let the corporations have their data. Bet it help them a lot knowing my nightly searches for "smiling licorice cameras".

I don't use Google anymore since my friend told me he once typed Google into the google search and he brought down the internet..
use BING...

Using a private (self made browser) on Solaris Just ask the folks at waterfox for some code assistance. It's VERY minimal. Oh and also duck duck go is a nice search engine

also tons of people are blocking google analytics cookies are *******s. lots of webmasters use that for website stats. those stats are helpful to webmasters like what operating systems visit our sites, the browsers, the regions, the sources, etc. it's extremely important and without it lots of webmaster would have no clue who has visted thier site and many other stats programs like awstats aren't complete enough. and lots of others charge a ton if you get a ton of visitors. many sites don't have the cash to spend 200.mo on stats from another company that does the exact same thing google analytics does (and sometimes tracks more and using the same methods) for free.

In this case, Google happened to find a bug in Safari which allowed them to trick the browser into accepting cookies without permission by tricking the browser into thinking the user was trying to submit a form, which they weren't. Rather than telling Apple so they could fix it, Google took a play from identity thieves and malware makers and decided to exploit the bug to their non-evil heart's content.

Hey, guess what: Google did fix the webkit bug themselves 7 months ago.

Using the bug to track users was obviously wrong, there's no excuse for that, but you can't go blaming Google for not telling Apple when Google did in fact fix it. When it comes to the bug itself it's Apple's fault that it was still present in their browser.

Microsoft has pointed out that IE9 doesn't have any such flaws, and I certainly hope that's true, but if it did, do you think Google would let anyone know?

Cheap unwarranted shoot at Google, see above.

"There's no such thing as perfect software"

But in Googles case, every bit of their s**t sucks!!

Have not and will not ever use ANYTHING of theirs!!
Not even close to the greatness that everyone seems to think they are. Just a bunch of idiots who follow what everyone else THINKS is cool!!

Kind of sounds just like Firefox, which I've noticed NOT everyone is clamoring about anymore, and Chrome. 2 other times I will NEVER use, at least not, and if I do, it will be the "other" versions of these programs like Palemoon, Waterfox, SRWare Iron, etc.......

Why, you ask, do I single out Google? Other companies, like Gannett and Vibrant, were involved, too, weren't they? Don't get me wrong, those are fairly well known companies, but they don't come close to the level of ubiquity that Google has achieved in the life of the average person.

Facebook does come close, and isn't even mentioned in the article.

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