Google, FB team up to beat Apple’s consumer privacy agenda

San Francisco: Google has teamed up with Facebook to work around Apple’s privacy tools in Safari to continue tracking end-users, an update to an antitrust lawsuit claims, with the search engine also doing what it could to slow down other regulatory initiatives surrounding privacy.

A lawsuit was filed against Google in December 2020 by a group of attorneys general, accusing the search engine of “engaging in market collusion to rig auctions,” reports AppleInsider.

While the lawsuit largely focuses on a deal between Google and Facebook to cooperate in the online advertising business instead of competing, an update accuses the two tech giants of trying to work against initiatives by Apple to help protect the privacy of its users.

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The amended complaint filed on October 22 and first reported by The Register, expands on the original claim in some directions, revealing more ways that Google may have tried to subvert user privacy.

As part of the complaint, it is alleged Google and Facebook “have been working together to improve Facebook’s ability to recognise users using browsers with blocked cookies on Apple devices, and on Apple’s Safari browser, thereby circumventing one Big Tech company’s efforts to compete by offering users better privacy.

This was apparently prompted by the two companies working closely and in integrating their SDKs “so Google can pass Facebook data for user ID cookie matching,” the complaint reads.

“They also coordinated with each other to harm publishers through the adoption of Unified Pricing rules,” it added.

Apple has implemented many privacy protection measures into its products, including Safari, such as 2018’s Intelligent Tracking Protection 2.0.

The system required websites to request tracking privileges from users on an opt-in basis with a culling of cookies 30 days after the user stops visiting relevant sites along with independent tracking of widgets and embeds.

A privacy report in Safari for macOS Big Sur offered users’ data on what trackers a website includes, as well as advising on how many trackers were prevented from profiling the user over 30 days.

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