Google Tracking Clicks Via Private Messages in Google Talk


It appears that Google likes to track what your friends or co-workers send you via Google Talk IM.

I was on Google Talk, .. my friend points out a link and I clicked on it.. low and behold it goes though Googles Redirect:

What the heck? It's a private IM with 'off the record turned on'

It's not a public webpage, it's a private IM .


Not too surprising....

Google tracks all relevent content. What is the most basic UGC than chat? They already analyze your Gmail for contextual ads, I see no harm in doing the same on IM - including clicksteam data.

are you sure that this is for tracking?

All of your messages go through Google's servers, so they can track your URLs without changing them.

Your friend is probably using gmail chat. Like other web mail services, Gmail bounces urls through a redirect script. This protects you. Without the bounce through the redirect script, the target website can tell that you can from gmail.

Read about http referer headers if you don't know what I am talking about.

This isn't surprising - G tracks ALL

This isn't surprising - G tracks ALL and won't be ashamed to use toolbar data, favorites data and any other user behaviour data to classify web pages and understand more about popularity, trends etc.
Let's try to overuse google chat by sending some spammy URL over and over again between lots of users, might as well improve its rankings... someday...

>Google tracks all relevent

>Google tracks all relevent content. What is the most basic UGC than chat? They already analyze your Gmail for contextual ads, I see no harm in doing the same on IM - including clicksteam data.<

That is supposed to make it all right ??????? Want to describe RELEVANT content? Relevant to what or whom?

I agree they, (they being just about everyone and anyone who CAN), are doing it, but it is not to protect you or to provide you better service. It is to sell more ads. Period. Hopefully it does not get any more nefarious than that.

When you stop and think of the implications, to me at least, it seems pretty scary and a loss of everything that privacy laws were meant to protect.

It is unfair. It is an invasion of privacy and it totally sucks that it is not clearly pointed out at every click that everything you say, do or look at is being recorded and it may or may not, at any time, for any reason you have absolutely no control over, be used for whatever purpose the people doing the recording wish to use it for.

Keep that in mind the next time you are talking with your friends or your family or your business associates.

Do you like the thought that by talking with your mother you may be getting more ads targeted to her comments to you sent to her gmail account?

Do you like the thought of mysteriously losing a client after you tell them they may get a better return using your service instead of a PPC campaign?

You said
>I see no harm<

I say, "then you sir, are naive at best and blind at worst".


This is Bullocks.. It's not a tin foil hat issue.

look personaly I knew that they technically COULD store, record, analyize and push out any content going though Google Talk...


The problem is that just because you could doesn't mean you should.

Tracking links sent via Google talk is not like reading something on a public webpage.

IM's are not like webpages, or blogs, or sites like threadwatch. It's a tool that many use like the telephone. There is a reason for example that you need your username and password to use Google Talk or other IM programs.. it's not a general chat room.. it's a tool to help with private conversations or business conversations.

I was more shocked because I had 'off the record' turned on, but off the record actually meant 'on the record' because they were tracking and recording clicks.

I don't know how to discribe this... if I had all the stuff logged.. then fine.. it's logged.. but when I turned off the logs.. and they still log part of it.. that is the problem.

It's like calling someone on the phone and talking to them only to find out later that they recorded part of the conversation.

I am sorry guys.. I don't agree with this at all... it's not that they tracked the clicks.. it's that I had it set for off the record.. and they still recorded part of it.

What's the harm if this is someting user agrees to?

What's the harm if this is something user agrees to?

come-on, If I had to read all the legal scrolls I agree to, that would probably be the main thing I'll do...

There is *some* harm:

1. When the usage does some evil
2. chats are supposed to be saved for the persons who participate, not for gossip or user behaviour stats.
3. Moreover in an "off-the-record" chat, If you enable a feature and name it "off the record" - make it off the record, as simple as that
4. Some Privacy? doesn't G collects enough data on human-kind intentions?

The Human Side

Let us not forget; while IM holds many similarities to traditional voice communication, it drammatically alters the paradigm for *future* conversations -- when IRC logs are utilized.

Case in point: After the loss of my fiance in 2003 I went through a period of mental destablement, and my primary reaction to incompetent coding was being an out and out asshole. Years later, I had recouped my sanity long since, and sought to revive the project, but the leaders of the project that forked during the height of my instability kept over and over quoting IRC comments that I had issued in my own channel that I didn't even remember uttering ...

it's that kind of photographic, easily grepped conversations spanning years and years that makes it incredibly hard to convince newcomers you have changed and otherwise mend fences.

Now just apply this to a court of law... and pray tell you currently are apathetic and apolitical! All it takes is a more fascist future administration to totally do you in via your GTalk logs :O {And I know from experience that they keep AIM logs for +2 years}

Hopeseekr's post say's it

Hopeseekr's post say's it all.

Beware of people and/or politicians that say, "If you aint doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear"...

... until they change the law!

Quick story: A British national caught-up in the Afghanistan war ends up at Guantanamo Bay. After many many mths in incarceration, he's interrogated. Leaving aside the fabricated BS that he was being accused of, the interrogators produced all manner of records on him... all the uncomfortable stuff of course, including some petty crime committed years ago and was long dealt-with and spent.

I could guarantee anyone, that if someone got hold of ALL the recorded information held on you, that someone would know you better than you can hope to remember... down to the second!



Where does it say they are being tracked?

Redirecting a url does not equal storing, recording, analyzing the data.

They are redirecting, where does it say they are doing these other things? Their privacy policy while not the clearest, doesn't seem to say they are doing this. Can someone fill me in? Or is the unfounded allegation enough?

Apache logs

Apache logs. Doesn't matter if they *intentionally* track or not, their webiste logistics does it for them. They may consider that since that is already mentioned in another policy that it doesn't need to be re-aggreed to.

Redirect = Tracking

My question is why would they redirect if they weren't tracking?

Redirecting goes though their system... counts the hit/click.. one way or another it's in the log file...

Someone commented to me that

Someone commented to me that if any national government were collecting personal data on the scale of the big ISP's, there would be an outcry - yet, somehow, citizens are fine if it's private business doing it.

Has to be a tipping point somewhere for online privacy regarding MSN, Yahoo!, and Google.

a more fascist future administration

than the current one?

anyways, the suggestion that the redirect is necessary because it chops off the referer query parameters is a red herring. it could just as easily have been done using client side javascript without the intervention of a server side redirect.

and why *are* they keeping account info in the query parameters anyways? there are a multitude of ways to avoid this. some harder than others, but nonetheless available.

They shouldn't do it, but it

They shouldn't do it, but it doesn't surprise me that they are. I am surprised though that other people are surprised by it.

not adding up

Ok, there's a redirect. But what's the benefit?

> it could just as easily have been done using client side
> javascript without the intervention of a server side redirect.

If this is true, then they can track your clicks without the redirect.

> Redirecting goes though their system

So does the IM.

This is not a Technical Issue : It's a 'Do no evil' Issue

My problem with this is not a technical issue.. it's that it doesn't comply with the Google 'Do no evil' ...

I know it's a joke... 'do no evil' .. it's been lampooned right and left.. but this just adds another mark on the already massive checklist.

of course they will keep

of course they will keep track of it.

Why do you think they did chat in the first place? As a "service"? No. They did it so they'd know who your friends are and what you talk about.

Think about the power of that information for a minute...that's huge!

Just fyi, I talked to the

Just fyi, I talked to the team about this. Google Talk itself doesn't use the redirector, just the Gmail chat. I believe it was in there for a legacy reason like scrubbing referrers but isn't truly necessary, so I believe the team is going to remove the redirection.

Thanks for mentioning this, The Founder.

Just fyi, much of the

Just fyi, much of the redirector stuff was removed a while ago, but I talked to someone on the team about this recently. It turns out that Safari and right-clicks on Firefox don't strip referrers, so they're going to resume using the redirector to strip referrers. Just wanted to mention that's why you'll see the redirector--to strip referrers, not to track clicks.

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