Blog Post

Is Chrome Spying on You?

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Tue, Nov 4, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    The nonprofit Consumer Watchdog
    has called on Google to amend several features in its new browser that,
    they claim, seriously compromise your privacy on the Web. You may have
    noticed that whenever you start typing into Google’s search field, the
    site starts suggesting topics for you. Google is, in fact, recording
    and storing every keystroke you type, regardless of whether you hit the
    search button or not. The company also stores your IP address, which
    can narrow your physical location down to within a block or two. In
    short, Google has compiled a profile of who you are and what you’re
    like, along with a damn good idea of where you live. If the government
    would like to know as well, and can get their hands on a subpoena,
    there’s not much you can do about it.

    This isn’t exactly news; Google’s been doing this for quite some
    time. But everyone knows Google is doing this, so if you’re planning to
    surf the Web with Google, you’re at least forewarned that your Internet
    privacy is a joke. With Chrome, it’s a different story. Chrome has an
    "incognito mode," which theoretically preserves your anonymity. But as
    Consumer Watchdog points out, the mode often switches off automatically
    without your knowledge. You may think you’re surfing the Web without
    someone looking over your shoulder, but the reality is considerably
    different.

    Consumer Watchdog has called on Google to display the incognito
    button prominently and remove any chance of hiding it behind pages of
    irrelevant text. It has also demanded that the incognito become a
    toggle switch, staying on until users explicitly choose to discontinue
    it. In fact, Consumer Watchdog wants an incognito button for all of the
    company’s applications, including Gmail. At a minimum, they insist,
    Google must more prominently warn users that their keystrokes are being
    stored somewhere.

    Needless to say, Google hasn’t exactly agreed. Consumer Watchdog has
    now launched a campaign to pressure the company into complying, and
    they have created an online form letter for
    users to send to the company. They’ve also produced a short film on how
    Google is keep tabs on what you do—which, of course, they’ve posted on
    YouTube
    .

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