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Google on the defense after Microsoft accuses search giant of undermining user privacy

It has been less than a week since The Wall Street Journal accused Google of undermining user privacy by sidestepping Apple's Safari Web default settings.

According to the publication, the search giant and some major advertising companies were using a code designed to bypass privacy settings and track users browsing the web with Safari on their mobile or computer.

However, Google has hotly denied any wrong doing, with the internet company releasing an official statement to refute the claims made by The Wall Street Journal.

"Unlike other major browsers, Apple's Safari browser blocks third-party cookies by default. However, Safari enables many web features for its users that rely on third parties and third-party cookies, such as 'Like' buttons," Google said (February 17)

"Last year, we began using this functionality to enable features for signed-in Google users on Safari who had opted to see personalised ads and other content – such as the ability to '+1' things that interest them."

But now it seems that Microsoft is concerned Google may by undermining the privacy of millions of users by applying similar practices to Internet Explorer.

"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?" wrote corporate vice president of Microsoft, Dean Hachamovitch.

"We've discovered the answer is yes: Google is employing similar methods to get around the default privacy protections in IE and track IE users with cookies."

The privacy settings in question refer to Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P) which encourages websites to inform users about the way browsing habits are tracked and used by the sites they visit.

The code used to track Safari users has since been disabled, but Google was quick to inform those affected that the cookies were not used to gain personal details about users.

A representative from Google told Fox News (February 20): "It's important to stress that these advertising cookies do not collect personal information."

Posted by Aimee McBride