The Google Safari-Gate Case: Issues of Governance and Accountability

Monday 17 September 2012, 1.00-5.00pm
LG.09, New Academic Building

Speaker: Jonathan Mayer
Graduate Student, Stanford University
Moderator: Professor Chrisanthi Avgerou
rofessor of Information Systems, London School of Economics


In July the United States Federal Trade Commission levied a record $22.5 million fine against Google after the company had deceptively tracked users of iPhone, iPad and Mac computers by circumventing privacy protections on the Safari web browser.

The Commission stated that Google had exploited a technical loophole in Safari to mislead users into believing they were protected against third-party advertising. Instead of such advertising being blocked by default, the browser privacy settings were surreptitiously altered and millions of users found themselves tracked by cookies planted by Google’s DoubleClick advertising company.

The case raises important questions not only of accountability, but also of the often-delicate balance that exists between the need for companies to operate successfully in a competitive, innovative environment while meeting the increasingly complex demands of regulation. Gaining a deeper awareness of the dynamics of the Safari case may lead to a clearer understanding of how to build future safeguards and improvements.

On September 17th the LSE’s Information Systems & Innovation Group will launch the “Under the Scalpel” event series with a roundtable discussion about these extraordinary events. Jonathan Mayer, the Stanford researcher who discovered the practice will keynote the event, which will be followed by a discussion about implications of the ruling and the lessons that were learned for corporate accountability. Leading UK lawyer Dan Tench will present an analysis of the legal implications of the situation.

The roundtable will be moderated by ISIG’s Professor Chrisanthi Avgerou. Google has been invited to participate in the event.

2012 has been a troubled year for Google with continuing controversy over its services. The French privacy authority CNIL is currently investigating the company over its new amalgamated privacy policy, unlawful WiFi collection during the Streetview operation continues to attract the attention of lawmakers while Norway has declared Google Analytics unlawful.

This event will explore issues of governance and accountability, and will consider the challenges of maintaining innovation while ensuring that the rights of consumers are respected.


  Jonathan Mayer