posted Dec 13, 2000

Google tracker raises privacy issues - sorta
Privacy from Companies
12/13/2000; 11:03:05 AM

'"By using the Advanced Features version of the Google Toolbar, you may be sending information about the sites you visit to Google," the company warns during the Toolbar installation process. "In order to show you more information about a site, the Google Toolbar has to tell us what site you're visiting which it does by sending us the URL."

'Google launched its new toolbar Monday just as privacy advocates were calling attention to the potential hazard of free software extensions, some of which collect more personal information than people who download them may realize.'

I'm all for privacy, but I think Google's done the right stuff here. If you want to see the rank of a page, making a request to the Google servers is the only way to do it. If you don't want to let Google know what pages you're visiting, shut the feature off and Google's toolbar won't make any requests. It's refreshing to see such technical honesty from Google in light of the services from other companies, where even if they don't ever need to know anything from the browser to function, there's still no way to stop the communication. This clearly isn't an attempt to trick the user into giving away trackable information, as so many of those other services are. (No advertising on the toolbar either.)

I think Google was a very model of privacy clarity in it's warning to the consumer... but decide for yourself: Here's the dialog box that everybody sees before downloading the toolbar.

By the way, I'm finding the toolbar immensely useful. Not only does it have a search box like you'd expect (which incidentally uses the best engine currently on the net), it also adds a few other features, including an "up" button (automatically takes you up one subdirectory), and a "highlight" button that highlights the words matching your search query.  An excellent addition to the browser and I recommend it. I don't say those words easily.


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