Google a Scary Spyware Spook Monster?

6 comments
Source Title:
Google – The Coming Out of a Datascraper Spook
Story Text:

With news of Googles new Web Accelerator comes fresh accusations of the Search Giant being a Spyware vendor, and fears that way too much data is being mined from users by it's tools and services....

From Google's support page

  • Google will receive your requests for unencrypted pages (those with “HTTP:”, not “HTTPS:”, at the beginning of the URL), along with information such as the date and time of the request, your IP address, and computer and connection information
  • If you enter personally identifiable information (such as an email address) onto a form on an unencrypted web page, some sites may send this information through Google. Whenever your computer sends cookies with browsing or prefetching page requests for unencrypted sites, we temporarily cache these cookies in order to improve performance
  • In order to speed up the display of pages generally, Google Web Accelerator may store copies of web pages, including prefetched pages that you did not visit, in the Google Web Accelerator cache on your machine. This is separate from your browser’s cache, which only identifies pages that you actually visited.

and what fantomaster says this implies

  • All repeat ALL your surfing habits will be 100% transparent to Google – a corporation whose top executives are known to have the strongest ties (read: security clearances) with government bodies such as the NSA, the world’s largest intelligence agency. And we’re talking of literally every single bit (no pun intended) of whatever you happen to view, surf, download. (Currently, Google says they’re not funneling SSL based traffic through their systems – but they’ll still be aware of your accessing https servers, whenever and wherever you are doing it. Also, this policy can easily be overridden by a simple turn of the switch …)
  • Google the media company that has an established track record of trying to steal their advertising partner agencies’ high net worth clients (in short: their partners’ very means of making a living!) will be privy to any and all cookies furbished by web sites. This enables them to build an almost comprehensive database of online vendors’ and buyers’ behavior, sales strategies, locations, time factors, etc. etc. – which, when properly processed, will reveal just about everything relating to real life online commerce and its participating parties.

Web Accelerator is only one more thing though, we already have the Google Toolbar gathering data from every browser it's installed under, the question now is this: When does it become too much?

As graywolf notes, if this had been any other company, the product would have been labeled spyware already.

Opinions and Attitudes

The tide has been turning for Google for some time now, it was brought to a head with the fiasco surrounding Google Autolink where many, including I, feel they've gone way overboard by inserting links in webpages, and have failed to address public concerns in anything even remotely resembling a satisfactory manner. Ignoring them is more accurate.

So what does this mean to Google now?

Well, it'll take a few days, maybe weeks to hit mainstream, but negative opinions are already rife about the new accelerator app, and Google in general. Presumably only time will tell, but one thing is for sure, these issues, and their PR implications get just a little closer to the mainstream with each "Beta" and the public will not always see Google in the same light they do now, as the webs saviour.

With Web Accelerator, Googles journey to the Dark Side may already be complete, and the transition from everyone's favorite search engine, to the new Microsoft like evil mega corp is at best a matter only of time....

Comments

getting there

... it really seems there's something going on at Google lately that's just not right. It seems like Google takes over where Gator gives up. But then again, we know from the history patent what the real purpose behind all this data gathering is (or do we?)

Anyway, i've

- blocked prefetch,
- implemented an anti-autolink script, and
- have blocked WAccelerator IP's, and

I will block the remaining IPs of WebAccelerator as i find them. I will also try to find out how i can block "Web History" or whatever the name was of that product. Sofar i've not had any luck.

---

What Google needs to realize, is that there is a delicate balance, or trade-off.

Their bread and butter (the sites they spider) will only allow the extra traffic that their bot generates as far as the publishers percieve it's of value to their users. A good publisher will place more emphasis on users than on any business partner - if one partner damages the relationship with users, it's time to find another.

Yahoo

Must be loving this...and only a few weeks after Autolink.

What's next Google?

 

While this quote is from a CNN article about how they treat advertisers, I think it applies here

Does Google really need to worry? After all, there are no signs that Google is about to cede its lead as the dominant Internet advertising site anytime soon. And given the rosy projections on future ad spending, Google might not need to win any popularity contests in the advertising world.

And yet, history might offer a lesson in hubris.

The last time Internet advertising flourished -- in the late 1990s -- AOL was king and acted like it. Time Warner officials today openly acknowledge that AOL alienated advertisers with its arrogance and paid a steep price when the dot.com bubble burst, giving advertisers the upper-hand.

Do the PHD's in the engine room have their eyes so clearly focused on SEO's, that they are content to let the MBA's steer the ship to it's eventual destruction?

That's another toe gone

Still can't twist my head around how "personally identifiable information" could be sent to Google, and "Do no evil," resolve in Sergey's mind.

G keeps aiming at its foot, lopping off a toe at a time as it stumbles along trying to define itself.

It's a hodgepodge of 20% projects with no clear path, where engineers make business -- And ethical! -- decisions. It's a culture that either ignores others' mistakes or is just too damned arrogant to learn from them, leading to unresponsiveness, non-transparency, an overall lack of communication.

Why are they even trying to collect personal information? Simply because they're Google, they think they could.

At least they admit it

" We are moving to a Google that knows more about you."

-- Google CEO Eric Schmidt, speaking to financial analysts, February 9, 2005, as quoted in the New York Times the next day

google office

So, taken together, you can have google enterprise edition as a single download and service package consisting of:

gmail
toolbar
desktop search
accelerator

and to run it all:

google branded browser from the new mozilla hires with all search and homepage defaults set to google.

all of them busily phoning home

prediction, somewhere along the line, it will be decided that it would be a good idea for one or more google apps in the above suite to upload all cookies whenever a visit is made to a google property. The tie-in of course is the gmail account.

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