Web Users Sue Google For Safari Workaround

by , Feb 21, 2012, 5:17 PM
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Google has been hit with two potential class-action privacy lawsuits stemming from reports that the company circumvented a feature in the Safari browser that blocks companies from setting tracking cookies.

One lawsuit, brought by Illinois resident Matthew Soble, alleges that Google violated the federal wiretap law and computer fraud law. "Defendant intentionally and willfully placed the tracking cookies on users’ mobile phone and computer devices and willfully intercepted the electronic communications of such users," Soble alleges in his complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Delaware.

The other lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Missouri by state resident Brian Martorana, alleges that Google violated the federal wiretap law and intruded on his solitude -- which can be actionable in Missouri.

Both cases were filed on Friday, shortly after The Wall Street Journal reported that Google and three other companies were setting tracking cookies on Safari users -- even though the browser is configured to block tracking cookies.

In a similar situation, a federal judge recently dismissed a privacy lawsuit against Amazon. The retail giant was accused of circumventing privacy controls of Internet Explorer users by "spoofing" the browser into classifying Amazon as offering more privacy protections than it did.

The lawsuit came shortly after researchers at Carnegie Mellon reported that many Web companies thwart users' privacy settings by providing incorrect data to Microsoft's Internet Explorer. (This week, Microsoft called new attention to that study by alleging that Google is among the companies that bypass the IE privacy controls.)

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Lasnik in Seattle threw out the lawsuit against Amazon because the users who sued weren't able to establish that they were harmed. The users amended their court papers and refiled them last month. That matter is still pending.

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