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Google may be catching all flack this morning for tracking iPhones, but Apple doesn't care about users' privacy either. In fact, the company already tracks users' every move. Google found a loophole in Safari, the most widely-used browser on iPhones, which enabled it to run its DoubleClick ad technology, giving it the ability to tracks users, ostensibly in order to serve them enhanced ads as The Wall Street Journal discovered. Google did so without warning, going against Apple's wishes. The Journal's crying privacy foul, but Apple is probably more upset than users because, when it comes to user privacy, it has the same agenda as Google: Apple created Safari the way it did to keep competitors out, so it could run its own tracking game.  

Of course Apple doesn't want Google in there. That's Apple's territory. Like Google, Apple has ways of keeping track of its users, via iAD's and Apple ID. And, unlike on the open Internet, Apple can and does control who else has access to its precious customers when they are using its products. So, for example, when using Safari -- the only browser that comes standard on iPhones -- Apple wants to use its tracking method and run its location enhanced ads. And by default, without asking, it does this. It does give users a way to opt out, but it doesn't, as Steve Jobs put it "Ask them. Ask them every time. Make them tell you to stop asking if they get tired of you asking." It doesn't ask at all, actually. By default, as explained on Apple's privacy page, Safari uses cookies, just like Google. To opt out, users have to know that the "opt out" feature exists, go to a separate Web page and disable iADs tracking features, for each iDevice. 

Google just found a way around this Apple-enforced rule, as it explains in its defense to The Journal. "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," said a Google representative. 

Apple would like to keep its system as insular as possible. For example, with Gatekeeper, a new feature that will come with the new Mac operating system, Mountain Lion, Apple encourages apps to register with Apple. Apple claims it has to do with keeping malware out: If an App is Apple approved, it must be safe, goes the logic. But it also pushes Mac users to the App store, with messages like this one discovered by Dustin Curtis, for Adium, a popular chat client that this very blogger uses:

This not only encourages developers to create Apple approved App store applications, it also scares Mac owners to use the app store, forcing them to sign in with Apple IDs. The whole thing conveniently keeps us in Apple's walled garden of delights, as BoingBoing's Rob Beschizza puts it. "A more pleasingly cynical answer is that it's a marketing move, aimed as much at analyst-fed Mac malware hysterics in the tech press as it is at real threats," he writes. 

Safari was supposed to be set up with the same mentality. As long as Web surfers are using an Apple product, Apple should make money. Google wanted in. It bypassed the system, and in so doing, violated users' privacy no more than Apple. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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