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Google Chrome raises user privacy concerns

Latest update : 2008-09-08

The launch of Chrome – Google’s web browser – has raised questions about the protection of the private lives of its users. Critics argue that it allows the US company to monitor every aspect of one's online activity.

Just as Germany is in the process of reviewing the laws governing the release of personal information over the Internet, the launch of Chrome--Google's web browser--has raised questions about the protection of the private lives of its users.

The user license for the browser authorises Google, in complicated legalese, to monitor the user’s entire web browsing.

In effect, the users authorise Google to collect their search history, which then allows the American Internet giant to create precise profiles of its users. These listings are extremely valuable, and would allow advertisers to target their wares more precisely online.

That information would also allow Google, the world’s top online ad carrier since its buyout of Doubleclick in April 2007, to enter a goldmine.

But the Google Chrome license has raised a furor. Article 11 of the original document stipulates that users forego their rights to all data created or put online via Chrome.

Google insists that this is an error created by the partial overlap of Chrome’s licence agreement with that of another of their products. They have since changed the terms of the licence.

But that has not stopped criticism. Omnibox, the field that combines a search engine with an address bar, sends all entered words to Google in real time, thus permitting the engine to “suggest” certain results. In other words, Google receives everything that the user types, while the user is typing it.

All these functions are activated automatically, but the user can, after several maneouvers, stop the process of sending personal data, by deactivating the “suggestion” function on the browser. This has not stopped consumer protection organizations from sending alarm bells the world over.

“We are concerned that Chrome will be a kind of giant magic carpet that transports our private information directly to the Google database,” said Peter Eckersley, a member of the US organization Electronic Frontier Foundation, on Cnet News. “Google already knows too much about what everyone is thinking at any moment.”

Date created : 2008-09-04

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