Nightly News | February 17, 2012
>>> internet privacy or the lack of it is back in the news tonight with word that google has been tracking the web browsing habits of people who thought they were surfing around the web with much more security. our report on this from nbc 's tom costello.
>> reporter: on the internet where the privacy rules are still being written, google seems to have pushed the boundaries. in essence, it and several advertising companies found a way to trick an apple software code. then secretly follow the internet browsing of millions of people who use apple safari browser on iphones and computers, but thought they were browsing in private. whether they shopped for a dress, looked up symptoms for alzheimer's, booked a flight or went to facebook , google and others were able to keep track. only when the " wall street journal " started asking questions did google disable the program.
>> for six months by enabling this feature, google was able to have a near monopoly on tracking iphones and apple devices, where only a handful of advertisers have access to.
>> reporter: apple isn't happy saying in a statement, we are aware some third parties are circumventing safari's privacy features and are working to put a stop to it. google tells nbc news it was an inadvertent technical glitch as it tried to compete with facebook . how much privacy should we expect?
>> i'm not surprised. i figure there is always somebody watching you.
>> as long as they can't find my home and hurt my family, i don't care.
>> i don't know who is going to use this information how.
>> reporter: in fact, at the moment, there are no federal internet privacy laws on the books. the more that google , facebook or anyone else can learn about our online browsing, the more they can customize their advertising to us.
>> there is a lot of money knowing who we are, where we are and what we want to buy at any begin time and all these companies are fighting to figure that out.
>> reporter: google promised last year not to misrepresent its privacy practices. on the internet, privacy is still an open question . tom costello, nbc news, washington.