Here is what google says they use the cookie for:
"Google does this by storing user preferences in cookies and by tracking user trends and patterns of how people search."
And here is what info google tracks for user searches:
" Google collects limited non-personally identifying information your browser makes available whenever you visit a website. This log information includes your Internet Protocol address, browser type, browser language, the date and time of your query and one or more cookies that may uniquely identify your browser."
So the cookie is not as harmless as most run of the mill session cookies and google is not as non-invasive as most people think.
They track who you are (your ip does uniquely identify you even if your cookie is disabled - as the RIAA can attest), what you search and when and they keep that information. That is an aweful lot of info they are compiling on every person.
Now how about those tie ins to the federal govt?
They will share these dosiers with third parties if:
" We conclude that we are required by law or have a good faith belief that access, preservation or disclosure of such information is reasonably necessary to protect the rights, property or safety of Google, its users or the public."
It is a no-brainer these days to conclude reasonable necessity for sharing this info for the safety of the public.
So it seems reasonable to conclude google is spying on us and sharing that info.
But my real quesiton is not about privacy. It is about google's crazy idea that search results are somehow changed based on past history. You searched for timbuktu yesterday and email readers today, so I will show you email readers in timbuktu.
That is not a sensible idea - ever. If the user wants email readers from timbuktu, they can add it to the line. But how can a user exclude things google adds from his history that he doesnt know is being included in the search?