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Mini-review: Cookie Cookie, the iOS app you’ll only open once but appreciate daily

FT Cookie Policy Screen

Cookies have a bad rap, with assorted non-techies describing them as ‘tracking your web activities,’ as if they somehow enabled someone to sit and watch what you do. The reality, of course, is that the most they can ever do in the way of tracking is note that you saw an ad on one website and later visited the online store to buy the product. Mostly what cookies do is simply recognize who we are when we return to a website – and they are easy to block if we really want to.

But the mainstream media got carried away, politicians got involved and it became law in Europe that any website using cookies had to inform visitors with a message that had to be actively dismissed. Most U.S. sites erred on the side of caution by following suit, subjecting almost all of us to pointless and annoying notices.

Cookie Cookie is an iOS app that does one thing and one thing only: does its level best to hide all cookie notices. You’ll only ever need to interact with it once. Open the app, then go into Settings > Safari > Content Blockers to allow it to run – and you’re done.

It can’t work perfectly, as there is no 100% reliable method for detecting cookies, so the app searches for them by name. More precisely, it uses CSS queries to look for HTML elements containing the most commonly-used names: cookie-notice, cPolicy, cconsent and so on. When it finds one of these, it hides the HTML element. The result is a web largely free from annoying messages you have to dismiss to get on with your day. In a few days of using it, I’ve found it blocked almost all of them.

So long as the app is open in the background, it will sit there silently doing its job on both iPhone and iPad. Cookie Cookie costs $0.99 from iTunes, but we have a few giveaway codes you can use – when you use one, please paste the code you used into comments afterwards so people can see it’s gone.


Millions of British Safari users able to sue Google over secretly-dropped cookies


UK Safari users have been given the go-ahead to sue Google for continuing to drop cookies on their devices even after they had refused permission through their browser settings.

It was revealed in 2012 that Google bypassed the setting in Safari which instructed sites not to drop cookies, enabling it to deliver personalized ads. The FTC in the US fined the company $22.5M for the practice, with millions more in additional fines levied by 38 US states. There was no government action in the UK, but a group of British iPhone users took Google to court, seeking compensation for breaching their privacy.

Google had attempted to have the case dismissed, claiming that there was no case to answer as the plaintiffs had not suffered any financial harm, but the UK’s Court of Appeal has rejected this argument, allowing the case to proceed …


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Google fights to have iPhone privacy case dismissed from UK courts


Google, which was fined $22.5M by the FTC for illegal use of tracking cookies on iPhones even when the user had set Safari to reject them, is asking the UK’s High Court to reject a claim for compensation from a group of British iPhone owners, reports The Guardian.

Google is arguing that any case should be held in the U.S., and that UK courts have no jurisdiction in the matter. It also observes that a similar claim in the USA was dismissed two months ago.

Google has been called “arrogant and immoral” for arguing that a privacy claim brought by internet users in the UK should not be heard by the British legal system […]

In the first group claim brought against Google in the UK, the internet firm has insisted that the lawsuit must be brought in California, where it is based, instead of a British courtroom … 

Lawyers for the claimants argue that the company has violated UK law, and that the case should therefore be heard by UK courts.

“British users have a right to privacy protected by English and European laws,” said Dan Tench, a solicitor from the law firm Olswang, which represents the claimants.

“Google may weave complex legal arguments about why the case should not be heard here, but they have a legal and moral duty to users on this side of the Atlantic not to abuse their wishes. Google must be held to account here, even though it would prefer to ignore England.”

While the case itself seems unlikely to succeed in any case – it being difficult to prove that harm was done to individuals – it is likely to lead to renewed debate about the legality and morality of companies doing business in one country while claiming to be legally resident elsewhere.

The British government queried back in May the accuracy of Google’s responses to questions about its tax status after the company paid just £6M ($9.7M) UK tax on a turnover of £395M ($644M).

Google and other ad companies have been tricking iOS Safari into accepting ad cookies, regardless of security settings

Internet giant Google found itself in a middle of a potential public relations nightmare following a Wall Street Journal article this morning. Tentatively titled “Google’s iPhone Tracking,” the article asserts that “Google Inc. and other advertising companies have been bypassing the privacy settings of millions of people using Apple Inc.’s Web browser on their iPhones and computers” to follow iPhone users even after they explicitly set Safari’s privacy controls to disable such tracking. According to authors Julia Angwin and Jennifer Valentino-Devries, Google used “special computer code that tricks Apple’s Safari Web-browsing software into letting them monitor many users.” Google apparently disabled the problematic code after the newspaper contacted the Mountain View, Calif.-based Company.

Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer discovered that although mobile Safari’s default setting blocks cookies from third parties and advertisers, Google and advertising companies Media Innovation Group, Vibrant Media, and Gannett PointRoll fooled mobile Safari into thinking “a person was submitting an invisible form to Google,” letting them in turn install a tracking cookie on users’ iPhones and PCs without consent.

Once a cookie installed, a Safari glitch allowed subsequent cookies to attach. Both Google and Apple issued statements following this morning’s report…