Feb 2, 2010

A Good Reason NOT to Use The Google Toolbar

I love me some Google, that is just a fact. However, not all of their freebie products I will use, or  trust. One of them is their new DNS service. They collect enough information about my Internet usage just by my searches, but if all my DNS queries are going through them, then 100% of my internet surfing will be cataloged by the almighty Google. Another freebie from the search giant is the Google Toolbar.

I found this mentioned originally via gHacks Technology News. Apparently a gentlemen by the name of Benjamin Edelman has been doing research on the possibility of privacy issues that arise when using the Google Toolbar. We all know Google collects information, but Benjamin’s findings are still kind of alarming.

In my opinion, there is no need for the Google Toolbar anymore anyway. All new browsers come with Google Search built in. Why add a friggin’ toolbar to the mix? Well, if the fact that all browsers already have Google Search built in is not a good enough reason for you, Mr. Edelman has discovered that the Google Toolbar continues to collect internet usage information even when it is disabled!

Google toolbar

From Benjamin Edelman’s write up:

A user presses "x", then chooses the option to "Disable Google Toolbar only for this window." The entire purpose of that option is to take effect immediately. By the time the user restarts the browser, that option is supposed to turn itself off, and transmissions are supposed to resume . For that option to work as its name promises, Google Toolbar must cease transmissions immediately. Google is right that, once a user restarts the browser, Google no longer falls short of its promise. But that's because Google's promise to stop tracking was a promise limited to a particular browser session -- not because Google ultimately got around to turning off its tracking. Fact is, the "Disable Google Toolbar only for this window" option doesn't work at all: It does not actually disable Google Toolbar for the specified window.

Crucially, these nonconsensual transmissions exactly hit users who are specifically concerned about privacy. A user who requests that Google Toolbar be disabled for the current window is exactly seeking to do something sensitive, confidential, or embarrassing, or in any event something he does not wish to record in Google's logs. This privacy-conscious user deserves extra privacy protection. Yet Google nonetheless records his browsing. Google fails this user -- specifically and unambiguously promising to immediately stop tracking when the user so instructs, but in fact continuing tracking unabated.

Now we all know Google likes to collect user statistics right? We don’t however expect them to collect data from us when we are not using the products, or their products are disabled. I don’t know about you, but that does seem rather shady.

What do you think? Do you have a problem with collecting data even if you disable their software? I want to know how you feel about it. Hit me up in the comments!

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