February 18, 2012, 8:03 PM —
A grad student has caught Google with its hand in the cookies jar.
Jonathan Mayer, a graduate student at Stanford, caused a major stir this morning when he published research showing how Google used loopholes within Apple's Safari browser cookie-blocking policy to place unexpected third-party cookies within the browser. In this article we'll detail Mayer's findings and their implications for Safari users.
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What are cookies and why should I care?
For the uninitiated, cookies are HTTP headers that are used by websites to track users' behavior when visiting their sites. Some cookies, however, are not used by first-party websites that the user is visiting but by third-party websites such as advertisers who happen to have links embedded onto the website the user is visiting. Apple's cookie-blocking technology is intended to block the cookies employed by these third-party sites so that users don't find themselves tracked by every single advertiser they come across on the Web. What's more, Apple enables cookie blocking on its Safari browser as a default setting, meaning that Safari users have typically felt comfortable browsing the Web without fear of being tracked by third-party cookies.