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Why did Google create their own browser?

Why did Google go to the effort to create their own browser, named Chrome? If you read Google's own explanation of why they built a browser, here's the essential part of what you'll read:

"At Google, we spend much of our time working inside a browser. We search, chat, email and collaborate in a browser. And like all of you, in our spare time, we shop, bank, read news and keep in touch with friends - all using a browser. People are spending an increasing amount of time online, and they're doing things never imagined when the web first appeared about 15 years ago.

Since we spend so much time online, we began seriously thinking about what kind of browser could exist if you started from scratch and built on the best elements out there. We realized that the web had evolved from mainly simple text pages to rich, interactive applications and that we needed to completely rethink the browser. What we really needed was not just a browser, but also a modern platform for web pages and applications, and that's what we set out to build."

Certainly that's an admirable goal of helping end users. That's what puts Google in such an enviable position in the Internet space-- any time that the size or the use of the Internet increases, they stand to gain from the inevitable need we all have to get help in navigating the web. Google is the helpful, ubiquitous traffic sign on the information superhighway.

But is their intention with Chrome completely selfless? I don't think so. One part of Chrome's default homepage is labelled "Search your history".

google-chrome.png

This made me wonder: would Google capture a user's browsing history on their own servers to use for their own purposes? Reading Chrome's privacy policy, a few of the bullets are revealing:

"...Google Chrome features send limited additional information to Google:

  • When you type URLs or queries in the address bar, the letters you type are sent to Google so the Suggest feature can automatically recommend terms or URLs you may be looking for. If you choose to share usage statistics with Google and you accept a suggested query or URL, Google Chrome will send that information to Google as well. You can disable this feature as explained here.
  • If you navigate to a URL that does not exist, Google Chrome may send the URL to Google so we can help you find the URL you were looking for. You can disable this feature as explained here."

It seems clear to me that Google is collecting the browsing history of anyone who is using Chrome. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, I'll leave up to you. Personal browsing histories which used to be isolated to your own computer would now be stored on Google's own servers as well. What happens to that remote data when you want to delete your own history-- does it stay in Google's datacenters? What might someone malicious do with that information if they ever had access to it?

I know that Google has disclosed this information in their privacy statement, but to me it seems to come close to running afoul of their corporate motto, "Don't be evil".

Comments (4)

"It seems clear to me that Google is collecting the browsing history of anyone who is using Chrome."

Did you completely ignore this part in their privacy policy, which you even pasted into your blog entry?

"You can disable this feature as explained here."

It seems clear to me that Google is NOT collecting the browsing history of ANYONE using Chrome. When I installed Chrome, the option to send Google personal info was plain and clear as a checkbox, easily turned off if you are afraid of Google.

What I don't understand about privacy advocates such as yourself is that you seem to ignore the fact that many people really do want to use these features. Why? Because they offer a better browsing experience. Why should I care if Google knows that I went to cubs.com? If I accidentally typed cubd.com, they might offer me the corrected URL. I LIKE these helpful features.

But even if Google did store my personal information along with my IP address, they'd still need to connect that IP address to me. And unless I'm doing something illegal, Google will never get that information from my ISP.

So if you don't want Google to have your personal browsing info, there are two options:
1. Don't use Chrome.
2. Use Chrome and turn off the feature.
But because Google is offering these convenient features to those who CHOOSE to use them, doesn't make them evil, in my opion.

By the way, I HATE captcha. I just tried to post this, but I got the text wrong. Do your visitors a favor and use Akismet or Project Honeypot instead of captcha.

OK, I failed the captcha again. I'll try a third time. Grrr....

@Jake: Thanks for your opinion. I won't disagree with you for an instant that having Google track your browsing is a feature that some people won't mind a bit and will find extremely helpful. Perhaps you don't recall the sentence in this blog entry where I state "Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, I'll leave up to you." I do whant to point out is that most people won't be aware that Chrome is acting in this manner. Are most people going to interpret the phrase "usage statistics and crash reports" (which is the label for the checkbox you mention above) as "we record everything you type in the location bar"?

It's not behavior that people expect in a browser, and since very few users bother to read privacy statements, I think that there will be a large proportion of Chrome users who will be sending their browsing information to Google without making an active choice to do so. In my opinion, that's a problem-- and sure, I said that it might be close to running afoul of Google's corporate motto since they'll profit from the information that people are giving them in ignorance.

And thanks for the comments about how difficult it was to enter the captcha challenge for my blog. Does Akismet really work so well that you no longer need any kind of active challenge at all?

Google has been sending our search query information to their servers a long time ago.
If you have a google toolbar or any google product, it sends information to google servers.
Not only search information, every page you visit will be logged into google servers even if you dont use google search. it sits in the background and spoofs for all the information you send online.
To prove it just download a free network packet viewer (wireshark) and it will show how google sends information in the background without you knowing. It is also stated in google's TOS.
Google in my opinion has become too powerful, and in the same sense its becoming another microsoft with the difference that it preys on information capturing rather that monopolizing.

I thought Google and Firefox had a good thing going? So are they not going to be teamed up anymore now that Chrome is out?

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