A lot has changed in the technology world in just a little over a decade. I remember a time when the big ‘rivals’ that we felt could challenge Microsoft were folks like Apple and IBM. While Apple and Microsoft still have a semi-rivalry, it is actually Google that proves to be their mortal enemy these days.

If you went back to 1998 and told users that Microsoft’s biggest rival would be a company that lets you ‘search stuff’ from the Internet, you would probably be told that you are a crazy person. Yet that’s exactly what’s going on anymore.

Google and Microsoft’s rivalry isn’t just about current competing products, I think it is more about the fact that both companies recognize the world of technology is changing in vast different directions (such as the cloud and mobile platforms), and both recognize that their biggest threat is each other.

So what role does Apple play in all this? It isn’t that Apple isn’t a threat (because it is at least somewhat one), instead I think Apple caters a different crowd while Google and Microsoft seem to be starting to fight over the same kind of users. I could be wrong on this assessment, but it certainly seems that way.

So the war between Google and Microsoft wages on, this time with Microsoft alleging that the folks over at Google are in fact circumventing user privacy settings on IE, similar to the claims that Google was doing this to Apple’s iOS browser just last week.

According to Google, the issue with the iOS browser was a more a bug than anything else, and not intentional.

So what exactly is Google doing to get past privacy settings in IE? Well, straight from Dean Hachamovitch,corporate VP for IE at MS, this is what’s going on:

Google is employing similar methods to get around the default privacy protections in IE and track IE users with cookies. We’ve found that Google bypasses the P3P Privacy Protection feature in IE. The result is similar to the recent reports of Google’s circumvention of privacy protections in Apple’s Safari Web browser.

By default, IE blocks third-party cookies unless the site presents a P3P Compact Policy Statement indicating how the site will use the cookie and that the site’s use does not include tracking the user.

Google’s P3P policy causes Internet Explorer to accept Google’s cookies even though the policy does not state Google’s intent.

Of course Google returned fire on MS starting that the folks at Redmond use a self-declaration protocol that dates back to 2002, and it is impractical for many sites to comply while providing modern web functionality. Further, Google says it isn’t just them that isn’t complying, citing a report from 2010 that found more than 11,000 websites aren’t issuing valid P3P policies.

The bigger question you have to wonder is if Google is intentionally trying to monitor these browser’s users or not. I wouldn’t be that surprised if they were to be honest. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft is doing the same exact thing.

The purpose of MS issuing the decree that Google is circumventing their security measures is simply a tactic, when combined with Google’s recent privacy policy changes, to further place distrust in Google and try to make Microsoft look like the good guys, I’d wager.

So what do you think? Is Google innocent of spying? Will this war end anytime soon, and in the long run with either of them prove to be the victor? Share your thoughts below.

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