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How much privacy is being forfeited by using the Google Toolbar
could info be subpoenaed by Gov - in this age of increasing concerns

 11:37 pm on Feb 26, 2003 (gmt 0)

Upon your first visit to Google, Google sends a "cookie" to your computer. A cookie is a piece of data that identifies you as a unique user. Google uses cookies to improve the quality of our service and to understand our user base more. Google does this by storing user preferences in cookies and by tracking user trends and patterns of how people search. Google will not disclose its cookies to third parties except as required by a valid legal process such as a search warrant, subpoena, statute, or court order.

Google obtains:
your search queries (with the advanced Toolbar features), the time of day, the type of browser you're running, the language your browser uses, and your IP address etc.

Google may choose to exhibit its search results in the form of a "URL redirecter." When Google uses a URL redirecter, if you click on a URL from a search result, information about the click is sent to Google, and Google in turn sends you to the site you clicked on. Google uses this URL information to understand and improve the quality of Google's search technology. For instance, Google uses this information to determine how often users are satisfied with the first result of a query and how often they proceed to later results.



 1:38 am on Feb 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

If you don't use the advanced features, the toolbar doesn't send any info to Google as you surf.

Google also works fine if you disable cookies; you just can't set persistent search preferences. Every major browser makes it easy to manage or disable cookies on a per-site basis.

Google uses url redirection on only a small percentage of searches as a barometer of how our quality is. Most other search engines track every click. Google is more concerned with getting users to their destination faster, not tracking users.

Google does not allow third-party cookies on search pages. Just about every other search engine does, esp. via banner ads.

The toolbar is a voluntary download, and the advanced features are *opt-in*. Anyone who claims the Google toolbar is spyware is misinformed or throwing stones on purpose.

A few people have been trying to lob stones at Google for privacy issues, and I'm surprised at how many people are falling for it. I'm proud of our respect for user privacy, and I think we have the best privacy policy in the industry.
I highly recommend that everyone who is curious about this review our privacy policy:
It's clearly written and very short. :)


 2:41 am on Feb 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

Actually, I'm with GG on this topic (almost completely, see below).

The privacy policy is quite 'good', and the amount of identifiable information Goole gets is minimal (in the grand scheme - turn it off if you don't like it).

The only thing I thing is 'missing' from the policy is information regarding how long the data is retained.

But this I can tell you -- I'd gladly install the GoogleBar over that other A.... search bar. Their policy is terrible. (As is it's parent's)


 2:41 am on Feb 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

Is it true that everyone loves Google because they don't have any lawyers in the advertising department?


 7:15 pm on Feb 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

Yeah, I thought about googlebar privacy today. Since it says it collects URL .... GoogleGuy, will it be dangerous if

1. I access an URL with some my sensitive password in it?
2. How about this URL is loaded from secure server.
3. Will Google INDEX IT! wow, die man.


 7:01 am on Feb 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

jamesyap, putting a password in a url would be pretty bad--in general, if someone can type in a url and find "secret" pages without entering a password, that's bad news. Referer leaks, proxy logs, etc. can all cause that to leak.

The way to protect a page is with robots.txt, meta tags, or .htaccess password protection--not obscurity. Of course, if you leave sensitive information up on the web and Google indexes it, you can use our automatic url removal tool to take your own pages out of our index.


 7:09 am on Feb 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

The RIAA lawyers are battling the ISP lawyers over the names of certain downloaders, who are suspected of whatever. It is comforting that the ISP's are putting up a fight to defend the privacy of their clients (as well as their own livelihood). Many honest people value their privacy on principle.

I wouldn't presume to ask Google to step up to the plate and state unequivocably that they would vigororously defend the privacy of their clients.

Who am I? Just one schmuck in San Francisco concerned about his privacy.

But it would sure be nice to know that they would...


 1:25 am on Mar 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

We'll do what we can. Unlike an ISP, Google doesn't have any personally identifiable information. A large fraction of surfers also have dynamic IP addresses or corporate firewalls or proxies, which can't really be mapped to a given computer, let alone a given user, so it's less of an issue. But if you are a user concerned with privacy, every modern browser lets you manage your cookies in some pretty powerful ways. Mozilla can even discard cookies after every session, I believe. We only use cookies to store persistent search preferences, so if the default Google search settings are fine, you don't even need a cookie.


 2:04 am on Mar 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

So to sum up what GG said - you can block the Google cookies if you want, unless you want your default language to be "Elmer Fudd". (Found that one last night. Oh, where can I send the bill to clean my keyboard from the soft-drink I was drinking?) :D


 5:54 am on Mar 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

It's even better than that, daroz. If you want to search in Elmer Fudd, just bookmark this page:

No need to enable those cookies at all if you don't want to. :)

My favorites: searching in Arabic and Hebrew. I don't know either language, but those letters look so cool! The Hebrew search is even right-to-left:

Isn't that wild? :)


 6:43 am on Mar 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hey GoogleGuy, when you add URL on the addurl page, it magically pops up into the toolbar. What's the deal on that? Kind of a paranoia magnet...


 6:57 am on Mar 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

GG -- It's all about the toys. :)

Thanks for the link!


 7:43 am on Mar 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

Unlike an ISP, Google doesn't have any personally identifiable information.

Good information. Thanks GG!


 10:22 pm on Mar 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

when you add URL on the addurl page, it magically pops up into the toolbar

The toolbar grabs whatever is after the &q= in the URL and sticks it into the editbox. It looks like the addurl uses the same parameter.


 10:41 pm on Mar 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

I consider IP addresses to be personally identifiable information. Especially if an IP can be associated with a search term. Sure, Google might not consider this personally identifiable but Big Brother could follow a subpoenaed Google trail back to the ISP and eventually the end computer. Unless Google does not log IP addresses(?). Otherwise, I consider the answers given by GoogleGuy to be misleading.


 5:07 pm on Mar 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

Unless Google does not log IP addresses(?).

I highly recommend people hook up a packet sniffer and see what type of URLs triggers PageRank queries. I tried it once (about a year ago) and it was pretty easy. PageRank was basically a bunch of HTTP queries.

When I tried it, the toolbar didn't send back anything to Google for IP based or SSL URLs (which made sense because these always have a gray pagerank bar).


 5:18 pm on Mar 3, 2003 (gmt 0)




 6:05 pm on Mar 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

Of course Google logs your IP address. Read their privacy policy:

"Google notes and saves information such as time of day, browser type, browser language, and IP address with each query. That information is used to verify our records and to provide more relevant services to users. For example, Google may use your IP address or browser language to determine which language to use when showing search results or advertisements."


 7:30 pm on Mar 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hey all, first post:

Nothing beats the memories from childhood. [google.com...]

Bork! Bork!


 6:29 pm on Mar 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

Google Guy,

I was thrilled to find Google in Klingon, but since I speak that so poorly, is someone working on a Ferengi version?

Dian :)

Who wants to be a Wild~N~Wooley Klingon Chick.

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