Google's Web Accelerator is a big privacy risk
bcarini at gmail.com
Thu May 5 11:06:12 PDT 2005
Dave, (for IP if you wish)
Google is now offering a download and service called Web Accelerator
(see http://webaccelerator.google.com/support.html ), which
purportedly speeds up a broadband connection through proxy and
caching. The application routes all page requests (except https)
through Google's servers. Each page request is logged by Google.
I've said this before: I really like Google, but they are getting
dangerous. Google has a great image as a good company. They have
engendered a great amount of trust through their "Don't Be Evil"
motto. And I think they really mean it. But the fact is that they
are stockpiling a perilous amount of personal information about their
Already, Google logs every search request with its IP address.
Google has acknowledged this log in a number of interviews. But,
they have never answered why they keep such a log. The search log by
itself is not too harmful since the IP address identifies a computer
and not a person. The searches cannot easily be traced to a
particular person without help from the ISP, unless a person likes to
Google their own name frequently.
If Google's search log makes you feel uneasy, Google Web
Accelerator is much more threatening to privacy. "When you use Google
Web Accelerator, Google servers receive and log your page
requests." (http://webaccelerator.google.com/privacy.html ) In other
words, every non-encrypted web transaction is recorded permanently at
This page request log could be used to create a near-perfect
reconstruction of a persons web use. Every page view, every search
on every engine, every unencrypted login, any information (including
name, address, email address, etc) submitted using the HTTP: GET or
POST methods will stored in this page request log. I expect that it
would be possible to identify a large proportion of individuals from
their page request log.
I don't think that Google currently has any evil intent for this
data. That would be at odds with their "Don't' Be Evil" motto. I
assume the current reason for collecting this data is simply for
research. But, over time, slogans change, companies are bought and
sold, and data is frequently repurposed, sold, or stolen. Then
privacy will suffer.
Google admits, "Web Accelerator receives much of the same kind of
information you currently send to your ISP when you surf the
Web" (see http://webaccelerator.google.com/support.html#basics5 )
But the difference is that my ISP doesn't keep that information,
along with my search history and every email that I send and
receive. Or if they do, they aren't telling me about it.
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