At first glance, this sounds really bad. I mean, really bad. The Wall Street Journal essentially sets it up as Google (and other, smaller advertising players) purposefully circumventing the web browsing privacy controls on the iPhone in order to track users’ browsing habits.
And when they got caught, Google stopped doing it. Which is usually not a good sign.
But my initial reaction is that John Battelle is right. This is much more nuanced than a simple black and white argument. Mobile Safari does have stricter privacy controls than other browsers, which is likely a very good thing for most users, but it also benefits Apple because it essentially destroys Google’s business.
And it’s a business that you could argue is helpful to some people for a number of reasons (all the free services Google is able to provide as a result, for example).
I just don’t believe this is as big of an “evil” Google thing as WSJ may have us believe. But having said that, if this really is mainly about Google+, that’s very poor form on Google’s part. You can argue that Google web ads are useful in certain situations and that data Google gets from cookies on the web makes them better. But the whole +1 junk is forced at best.
One thing is certain: Apple is not going to like this one bit. This seems like the kind of thing Steve Jobs would have gone ballistic over. This will undoubtedly escalate the war between the two sides.
Update 2/17: Not Tracking, Just Lying