ICO Investigating Google Over Browser Privacy Claims

The U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has confirmed it is in discussion with Google over claims that the firm bypassed privacy settings on both Internet Explorer (IE) and Safari browsers to log user activity.

The data watchdog said that it was talking with the search giant to ensure it was complying with all necessary data laws.

“We are aware of this issue and are continuing to make enquiries with Google to ensure that they comply with the Data Protection Act and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations,” it said in a statement.

ClickZ sister site V3 contacted Google for comment but had received no reply at the time of publication.

The issue first came to light after a Stanford University researcher reported that the company was ignoring settings on Safari intended to block tracking tools.

Google refuted these accusations, but since then Microsoft has said the firm is also ignoring its security settings on its IE browser, again forcing Google to justify its actions.

The issue is particularly interesting from a UK and European perspective as it comes weeks before the so-called Cookie Law comes in to force in May, which will force firms to obtain the consent of users before deploying cookies on browsers.

Google has admitted in the past it is struggling to develop the best system possible to adhere to this law.

The incident is not the first time Google has had a run-in with the ICO either. Google was previously investigated over the collection of Wi-Fi data from private accounts by its Street View cars.

The browser privacy revelation has also been noticed by lawmakers in the U.S., where three Congressmen have sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission. The letter inquired whether the Safari cookie incident may have violated a 2011 privacy settlement between Google and the FTC relating to the company’s now-defunct Buzz product.

This article was originally published on V3.

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