Google Fined Tens of Millions of Dollars in Fines over Bypassing Safari Privacy Settings

Last month, we reported that Google had used code that allowed the company to bypass the standard Safari privacy settings, which allowed them to insert advertising cookies on an affected device. It was also reported that a Safari user had sued Google over the claimed privacy violation.

In fact, Google denied that by saying “The Journal mischaracterizes what happened and why. We used known Safari functionality to provide features that signed-in Google users had enabled. It’s important to stress that these advertising cookies do not collect personal information.” Clearly not the case.

Now, Bloomberg reports that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is getting ready to fine Google over its efforts to bypass privacy settings in Safari for iOS to track users through ads on sites across the web. According to the source, the fine is likely to be tens of millions of dollars.

Google Inc. (GOOG) is negotiating with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission over how big a fine it will have to pay for its breach of Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s Safari Internet browser, a person familiar with the matter said. […]

The fine would be the first by the FTC for a violation of Internet privacy safeguards as the agency steps up enforcement of the Web.

“Don’t be evil” indeed.

Internet Explorer 9 Is The Fastest Browser On Windows

According to a study conducted by New Relic which measures browser speeds on both mobile and desktop platforms, Internet Explorer 9 takes the cake for the fastest browsing experience on Windows with load times of around 3 seconds, while Firefox 14.0 and Chrome 17 tied at 3.5. Safari for Windows 5.1 took 4 seconds to load the same page.

On the Mac side, Chrome is the winner with Chrome 13 reporting load times of 2.4. Chrome 19 on the other time has load times of around 2.7, tying it with Safari 5.1. In the survey, a total of 7 Chrome versions were tested. Firefox 11 for Mac took 2.8 seconds.

The mobile browser speed results are quite interesting. Apparently, Blackberries are in fact good for one thing; BlackBerry Opera Mini 6.5 took around 2.6 seconds to load pages, compared to Safari (iPad) 5.1’s load time of 5 seconds, and Safari (iPhone) 5.0’s load time of 6.2 seconds. The load time for Safari (iPhone) 5.1 was around 6.6 seconds. Opera Mobile 12 for Android’s load time was around 7.3 seconds.

The study was conducted in March 2012 over the course of one week, in which New Relic surveyed and measured the speed of 5 billion global page loads across PC and mobile browsers.

In conclusion, here’s a statistical tidbit: This year’s average page load is 5.5 seconds, compared to last year’s time of 6 seconds.

Safari User Sues Google over Claimed Privacy Violation

Last week, it was reported by The Wall Street Journal  that Google had used code that allowed them to bypass the standard Safari privacy settings, which then allowed them to insert advertising cookies on an affected device. Did somebody say evil? Now, Bloomberg reports that a user of Apple’s Safari, the default web browser of every Mac and iOS device, is suing Google Inc. after their sneaky tactics were revealed.

Attorneys for Matthew Soble filed the complaint on Tuesday in Delaware’s federal court and are seeking class-action status for the suit which suggests that Google bypassed certain Safari privacy settings in order to track users’ web habits. Apple’s Safari browser is set by default to blocks cookies or small bits of code to identify users when they return to a previously visited site. In the past, Apple has been criticized for not caring about their customers’ privacy, but this is just further evidence that they do. While on the other hand, Google tracks Android users without them knowing.

Google, the hypocrites, have denied this by stating that: “The Journal mischaracterizes what happened and why. We used known Safari functionality to provide features that signed-in Google users had enabled. It’s important to stress that these advertising cookies do not collect personal information.” Give me a break! If this were true, that would justify the number of times Google has been caught doing something wrong in the past year, right? In fact, just after being contacted by WSJ, Google disabled the code and later removed information from a company site. Yup, doesn’t sound fishy to me at all. “Don’t be evil” indeed.


So You Want to Kick the Google Habit? [Editorial]



Google Everywhere

It is hard to go online today without touching one or more Google products or services. If it is not search, it may be email, YouTube, Blogger, Picasa, Docs, or Calendar. Google has truly blanketed us with their web-based app offerings. Heck, even the Google Doodle is a conversation topic!

In this editorial, I shall discuss how you can kick the Google habit, what I am using now as alternatives and why you probably won’t be able to replace certain Google products today. Ready to move away from Google? First, some background.

Why un-Google?

Some of the reasons I personally decided to look for alternatives:

  • Google became a part of virtually everything I did online. I used GMail, Google Reader, Google Finance, Blogger, Picasa, Picasa Web, Google Docs, Google Search, Google Calendar and Google Maps. I felt uncomfortable putting such a large portion of my online life in Google’s hands.
  • Google morphed from the cool little startup building fun stuff for consumers, to a dominant public company whose revenues essentially came from just one product. That’s the key most (96%) of its revenues (and profits) came from search advertising. In other words, it needed other ways to make money. The most obvious way to do so would be to extend the arm of advertising, their main revenue-generating product, into other products. I realized I was the merchandise.
  • Google seemed to get Apple and Facebook envy. Apple was growing rapidly across all their product lines and at very high profit margins, and Facebook was taking eyeballs and key talent away from Google. This led to some bad attempts to mock Apple and Facebook publicly, which of course delighted the Google developer and enthusiast community but came off as being negative to me. If you make a great product, you don’t need a negative campaign.
  • Aside from philosophy, some of the competing products started becoming better, and Google’s products started getting worse (more on that within my descriptions) prompting me to start Project Un-Google which was an effort to use fewer and fewer Google products, hopefully reaching a point where I did not depend on any Google product at all.

Whether it is for philosophy, or hedging your web app bets, it is good to know there is life outside Google when it comes to products and services online and offline. There is usually a strong resistance to change, especially if you have a long history with a product. There is a high cost for transferring the old stuff, and learning your way around a new product/service. However, these challenges are not insurmountable, and I hope you take a look at some or all of the products I list here as an alternative to Google. If you have ideas of other products I may not have mentioned, please let me know!

Popular Google products

Here are some of the Google products/services I will be comparing to competition:

  • Search
  • Picasa
  • GMail
  • Calendar
  • Documents
  • Groups
  • Finance
  • Blogger
  • Chrome
  • Maps/Directions
  • Talk/Chat/Voice

I realize Google has many more products, appsand services, but I did not look at products like Book Search which are very niche. My attempt here is to look at the commonly used products and services only.

Apple’s Safari Grows To 8% Browser Share

According to a new report from Net Applications’s NetMarketShare data, Safari has exceeded 8 percent of web browser use across all devices due to the strong growth in iPod touch, iPhone, and iPad sales. Also, Apple’s WebKit, the second most widely used rendering engine, combined with Google Chrome makes it second to Internet Explorer and slightly ahead of Firefox.

Net Apps Browser Data

In addition, the data shows that in the last two years, Internet Explorer’s marketshare has dropped from nearly 67 percent to 52.8 percent. Firefox has also seen a decrease in marketshare from almost 23 percent to 21.48 percent. However, Google’s Chrome has seen massive increase in marketshare. Chrome’s marketshare increased from 2.84 percent to 13.45 percent, while Safari’s nearly doubled from 4.07 percent to 8.05 percent.

Safari and Chrome’s marketshare combined now represent over 21.5 percent of web users, making it slightly ahead of Firefox even before counting the small number of WebKit browsers.

Clearly Safari’s growth isn’t going to stop here. Apple’s development of not just a desktop browser but also converting the desktop version of their browser to the first “fully usable” mobile version browser has not only tremendously changed the web browser market but also has affected the web-related development market as well.

Internet Explorer Popular Among People with Low IQ, Study Suggests

Aptiquant, a Vancouver based Psychometric Consulting company, which specializes in helping organizations objectively assess applicants and employees, has released the results of its study in which it correlated the IQ (Intelligent Quotients) of users with the browser they were using. The results aren’t all that surprising.

On an average, Internet Explorer users were found to have the least IQ, while Opera users had the highest. Camino users and Internet Explorer users with Chrome Frame plugin were also found to have higher than average IQ. The results are pretty much what you would expect. The dominance of Internet Explorer has long been attributed to its bundling with Windows. A sizeable portion of users tend to just use what Windows ships with instead of looking for alternatives. Heck, many people don’t even know what is a web browser. On the other hand Opera, which has remained the niche browser, is often dubbed as the browser for geeks and power users.


In order to collect the data Aptiquant relied on the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (IV) test, which is available on its website. The gender, geographic location, and browser of netizens taking the test were recorded along with their test results. The scores of more than 101,326 individuals were analyzed.

Aptiquant also compared their recent dataset with the data they had collected in 2006. The older dataset paints a significantly different picture. The mean IQ of Opera users drops significantly, and Internet Explorer (6 and 7) gets a significant boost. Clearly, over the last five years, Internet Explorer has lost its share of intelligent users, as power users have migrated elsewhere.

Aptiquant also divided the users into IQ groups based on their percentile ranks. Once again, Internet Explorer users dominated the lower percentile groups, while Firefox, Opera, Chrome and Safari users dominated the higher percentile groups.

Aptiquant’s study reinforces that stereotype that Internet Explorer is a dumb user’s browser. It also demonstrates that Microsoft has simply not been able to stay abreast with its competitors. Even though Internet Explorer 7 and 8 users have a higher IQ score than Internet Explorer 6 users, Microsoft has failed to stop the flow of power users to third-party alternatives. Internet Explorer still has a healthy market share. However, masses often follow the early adopters and power users. Microsoft will need to come up with something pretty brilliant if it hopes to reverse Internet Explorer’s fortunes.

Hat tip: @Opera

Xcode 4.1 is Free for Lion Users

If you are a developer on the Mac, then you are aware of what Xcode is. If you aren’t a Mac/iOS/Safari Dev, then you may not have even heard of Xcode. That’s to be expected, as it used to be only  available  to those with developer  licenses.

However, when the Mac App Store launched, Apple released Xcode for a mere 5 dollars. I, like many others, picked it up for personal reasons. I wanted it to enable the beta versions of the multi-touch gestures for my iPad.

Now, Apple has decided to give Xcode away for free, given that you have purchased a copy of OS X Lion. This is huge news, because it will save casual developers a hundred bucks a year. If you need an application to write the  occasional  piece  of code, or even just a simple script now and then, you should check out Xcode.

Xcode is constantly rated as one of the best sets of tools for development on the Mac. It sports some of the best formatting and color coding I have ever come across. While I don’t write code for a living, I have done some basic web development, and Xcode makes my life easier when I do.

If you are interested in Xcode, and you have already upgraded to Lion, then I suggest you pick it up. While the price may stick, it wouldn’t surprise me if Apple changed the price with an update in the future. Jump on this deal while its  available.

TweetDeck Launches Web Based Beta Client

is one of my favorite desktop clients for accessing and feeds among other social networking platforms. They also have clients for the , , and . However, the one that impressed me the most was their for .

TweetDeck Web

The TweetDeck Chrome App brought all the goodies from the desktop app to the browser. Today, TweetDeck has announced that they will now be allowing users to access TweetDeck on any web browser using a web app.

As we said at the time, Chrome TweetDeck marks the start of a new era for TweetDeck, with all efforts now focused on building our next-generation products as HTML5 and mobile apps. Since then we have been working hard, not only on improving the existing ChromeDeck experience, but also on bringing the same TweetDeck app to other web platforms.

TweetDeck Web will be available in a limited web beta for users which will be available as a standalone web site and does not require any downloads. However, TweetDeck Web beta will be subject to hourly limits because it will not be using the streaming API from Twitter.

TweetDeck Web will initially be opened up as private beta and users can sign up to get early access at The initial focus group would be users of browsers such as Google Chrome, 3.6, and Safari, with support for and Internet Explorer 9 being added soon

Though TweetDeck is taking a great step forward by taking their platform online, they are not the first one’s to provide a web-based format and several other services like Seesmic, Dabr and HootSuite already provide web based Twitter clients.

However, TweetDeck chrome already notched up an impressive 400,000 users in a short spam of time. It would be interesting to see how much dent they make into the market share of other services by launching the web interface for different browsers.

Windows Phone 7, Android, Chrome, and Firefox Survive Pwn2Own

Earlier in the week, we reported that Internet Explorer (running on Windows 7) and Safari (running on Snow Leopard) had been hacked almost instantaneously on the first day of pwn2own, an annual hackfest. Google’s Chrome browser made it through as the sole participant who had registered to take a crack at Chrome failed to turn up.

pwn2ownThe following days of the competition witnessed Firefox web browser, and Android and Windows Phone 7 mobile operating systems survive pwn2own 2011 in a similar manner as contestants either failed to turn up or withdrew.

On the other hand, Apple’s poor show in the competition continued with the legendary Charlie Miller succeeding in bypassing iPhone’s defense by exploiting a bug present in Mobile Safari.

RIM’s Blackberry OS, which was tested next, also fell quite easily. Once again, a flaw in its Webkit based browser was the culprit. The team made up of Vincenzo Iozzo, Willem Pinckaers, and Ralf Philipp Weinmann targeted the browser as unlike RIM’s operating system, WebKit is well documented and well known.

Meanwhile, after examining the vulnerabilities exploited by Stephen Fewer to hack Internet Explorer 8, Microsoft has stated that they have already fixed the concerned vulnerability in Internet Explorer 9. It didn’t however explain why older versions of internet explorer were yet to be patched, and when, if at all, they will be patched. All the exploits used in the competition are properties of TippingPoint ZDI, which passes them on to the concerned vendors, and provides them six months to fix the issue.

Safari and Internet Explorer Fall on Day 1, Chrome Remains Undefeated in Annual Hackfest

History repeated itself, once again, on the first day of pwn2own, an annual hacking competition where hackers try to break through the defense of modern browsers and operating systems. Safari and Internet Explorer were once again successfully exploited by hackers, while Chrome remained unchallenged and undefeated.

Pwn2OwnSafari, which was the first browser to be challenged, fell within five seconds. The French security firm VUPEN managed to both execute arbitrary code (launch the Calculator), and bypass sandbox protection (write file on the hard disk). The technique used by VUPEN required development of tools from the scratch and took about three weeks to put together. VUPEN’s success is notable because shortly before the contest began, Apple patched as many as 62 vulnerabilities in a massive security update.

Next up was Internet Explorer, which met a similar fate at the hands of Stephen Fewer. Fewer exploited three separate vulnerabilities to execute Calculator and write a file to the disk. Unlike Apple, Microsoft hadn’t even bothered to issue any security updates last week.

The final browser that was supposed to be tested today was Chrome. However, the single contestant who had signed up to take a crack at Chrome didn’t turn up. So Chrome finished the day unchallenged and undefeated. Like Apple, Google had also released a major security update to Chrome in which at least 24 vulnerabilities were patched. It’s likely that the contestant dropped out because the zero-day vulnerability he planned on using was fixed by Google.

Firefox is slated to be challenged tomorrow. Should it fall, Google Chrome will be the last browser standing for the third consecutive year. Opera is not included in the competition as the organisers are of the opinion that its current user base of 53 million is not large enough.