The Running Commentary


Google Chrome gathering information on you


Preston Gralla wrote this article in Computerworld blogs

talking about the every growing Google and the way it gathers information using the new Google Chrome browser.

Lost in all the hoopla about Chrome’s release is a very disturbing fact: The new browser could be Google’s greatest privacy invader yet. In fact, Chrome can send back the keystrokes you type into its Address Bar, even if you don’t bother to hit Enter. I’ve got details, along with a fix.

The danger comes from one of Chrome’s niftiest features, what it calls the Omnibox. The Omnibox is, in fact, the browser’s Address Bar, but it has a feature that looks at what you type, and then auto-suggests sites that it thinks you’re about to enter. As you type, the suggestions appear.

As you type, your text is sent back to Google, which analyzes it and makes the auto-suggestions. That’s why you don’t even need to press Enter for the text to head to Google.

Making matters worse is that Google has already said it will store approximately two percent of the information it gets this way, including the IP address of the computer.

Google already has tremendous amounts of information about you, including your search habits. With Chrome, matters get worse — it can now even find out what you type, even if you don’t visit a Web site. It’s not at all clear at this point what Google will do with this data.

There are a few ways you can stop your information from being sent from Chrome back to Google, though. If you use a search provider other than Google, the information won’t be sent. And if you don’t use auto-suggest, the information won’t be sent, either.

To use a different provider, or to turn off auto-suggestion, click the Tools icon, and select Options. You can then select a different search provider from the drop-down list next to Default search. To turn off auto-suggest, click Manage, and a screen like the one below appears. Uncheck the box at the bottom of the screen.

You can also use Incognito Mode, in which all your surfing remains private — think of it as porn mode. To launch an incognito window, click the Page button and choose New incognito window. You can also press Ctrl-Shift-N.

I have posted a comment on his site, much in the line with my previous posts on relevance vs. privacy. In that post I spoke about the risk of putting your names on “Opt out” lists and how I felt that this limited your chances to get relevant information about things that interest you.

I guess in the case of Chrome I would be okay with the keystroke tracking in term of the Ominbox concept as long as password information was not kept. Building a pattern of my searches and choices hopefully means that clever marketers out there will get more information that I want to me. Until I know what information they are gathering I am electing not to use Chrome.

ChromeDatabaseGoogleinformationmailingopt outprivacyrelevance

Mike • September 5, 2008

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