Google has hit back at claims that its search engine bypassed privacy protections in Apple's Safari browser, the most widely used browser on iPhone and iPad.
The Wall Street Journal cited a Stanford University researcher in reporting that the company was ignoring settings on Safari intended to block tracking tools.
The researcher found Google's platforms were seeminlgy able to log user activity on both the OS X and iOS versions of the Safari, despite the browser's privacy protection mechanisms being activated.
The WSJ reported that after it contacted Google, the company disabled the offending components.
Google, however, is claiming that the report "mischaracterises" the issue.
In a statement provided to V3, Google senior vice president of communications and public policy Rachel Whetstone said that the code was used to provide services for users who had logged into their Google accounts.
"To enable these features, we created a temporary communication link between Safari browsers and Google’s servers, so that we could ascertain whether Safari users were also signed into Google, and had opted for this type of personalisation," Whetstone said.
"But we designed this so that the information passing between the user’s Safari browser and Google’s servers was anonymous, effectively creating a barrier between their personal information and the web content they browse."
Google said that this was not intended to allow third party advertisers to install cookies. Those that were installed were not collected personal information it added, and that it would be removing the cookies from affected systems.
The report comes as Apple finds itself under scrutiny for its privacy practices. The company has come under fire from privacy advocates and and government officials following reports that iOS applications have been able to access user address books without notification or permission.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said that the incident underscores the need for a strict, organised "Do Not Track" platform from Google and its advertising partners.
"It’s time for Google to acknowledge that it can do a better job of respecting the privacy of Web users," the EFF said.
"One way that Google can prove itself as a good actor in the online privacy debate is by providing meaningful ways for users to limit what data Google collects about them."
Apple did not respond to a request for comment on the matter at the time of publication.
Google already claims to carry as much as 25 per cent of global internet traffic
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