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Google Chrome Spyware?


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#1
FutureShock

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This is old information from around 2009, and I don't even know who ran this test (if there was one even), but I am curious if anyone ever got to the bottom of this issue. Does Google track every click of every Google Chrome user? Visiting Comodo's Facebook site Comodo Around the Clock I found a very profound article posted there about a test that has been run on Google Chrome. Again this is from 2009, and I do not know who ran the test or if there really was one, although I have found a few more instances of information on the topic using a Google search. Here is the final anaylsis of the supposed test from the Comodo site post:

"With its Chrome browser Google is actually monitoring your entire surfing behavior, not merely the searches you may conduct via their search engine"

Here is Wikipedia's definition of spyware:

From Wikipedia:

… Software that secretly monitors the user’s behavior… Spyware programs can collect various types of personal information, such as Internet surfing habit, sites that have been visited…


This is a pretty technical report, so I have decided to post the body of the Facebook post for anyone who would like to take a look.

Now this is getting more and more interesting. Guys made a nice post on how Google Chrome is a spyware, indeed.

What was tested? Apparently, they have monitored Google Chrome behavior with network protocol analyzer tool and here are the results:

After typing Microsoft.com in the address field, all calls were addressed to IP 74.125.43.100 (host: bw-in-f100.google.com) which is Google’s for sure.


WEB SITE ADDRESS WAS HERE

For example:

Session Protocol
----------------
GET /complete/search?client=chrome&output=chrome&hl=en-US&q=h
["h",["WEB SITE ADDRESS WAS HERE depot","hsbc"],["Hx26M","430,000,000 results","32,300,000 results","27,800,000 results"],[],{"google:suggesttype":["NAVIGATION","QUERY","QUERY","QUERY"]}]GET /complete/search?client=chrome&output=chrome&hl=en-US&q=htt
["htt",["WEB SITE ADDRESS WAS HERE 500"],["Facebook","1,000,000 results","554,000 results","87,500,000 results"],[],{"google:suggesttype":["NAVIGATION","QUERY","QUERY","QUERY"]}]

Post continues…

This shows nicely how each and every character, when entered in slow speed, gets transmitted to Google whereupon the Google system returns its suggestions that will not be modified further, the more complete your final address string becomes.
It is important to note that we are analyzing the browser’s address field here, not a Google query field


I gotta say here that I have been intimidated from day one by the Google system. Couldn't say for sure what it is about Chrome that turns me off, but I wouldn't even try it. I hope Google isn't breaking the law here. That would be very heartbreaking to many Chrome users.

Anyone with any information...I'd appreciate the input...thanks...

I will look for more on Google search...

#2
Claw

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I use SRWare Iron for that exact reason FS, I've read those reports and figured why not be safe than sorry. Actually it was Jim who got me interested in Iron. I will see what else I can find out. Get back to you buddy.

#3
FutureShock

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Yep...I think I remember that discussion a while back...thanks Claw...

Google searches seem quiet about it, but the talk there is seems knowledgeable and at least somewhat credible as valid discussion...

#4
marko

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Most people will confuse "analytics" with "spying" - basically, no matter which browser you use, Google (and any other site for that matter) will attain statistical data from your surfing. In the case of Google, you use any browser for a google search and that search will be stored, and any follow up on a link you chose to use from google will also be stored. This information doesn't identify you personally, it's simply added to the other many thousands of searches performed on google each hour to build up a picture of what is being searched for.

As far as Chrome is concerned, it basically does the same thing as any other browser would do - personal info isn't kept or stored anywhere, it's just when you perform a search that data is used for statistical purposes, that's all.

If you click a link here, or click a link there, it's not stored, unless of course it's from a google search.

As far as I'm aware, this browser is still open source so I'd trust that more than I would IE for example, and I'm sure that if Google decided to start slipping in tracking codes out of the ordinary, we'd soon be reading it in the headlines rather on sites which "speculate" or "presume" :good:
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#5
Guest_James (Jim) Hillier_*

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Well said Marko, agree 100%. There is a huge difference between "spying" and collecting harmless (unidentifiable) data relating to browsing/search habits.

#6
FutureShock

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I would agree with you guys, but, if I type in a web address, that's different than a search, and, if Google collects that site address data from Chrome users, that would make the collection experience different for Google Chrome users. Just a point.

I'm looking to try to verify the claim of this tester, which I guess could be anyone, but Google either does or they don't collect information from the address bar of Google Chrome. Essentially, what I'm looking for is...does Google get more information from Google Chrome users than from the users of other browsers, all other things the same (i.e. users of both use the Google search bar or make Google searches only)? The second question would be...does this bother you? Hard to answer when there is only speculation out there, but I was just curious if perhaps it had been true and no one or only a small number of people cared. I can say for sure I wouldn't like that from an internet browser if it were true...

Maybe it's just speculation, but I want to know if it's true...I mean on this specific issue...

Well, for me, I'll keep digging...

:)

#7
FutureShock

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Well, this was fairly quick...just needed the right search tactics...

According to a well documented site, Google Chrome collects all auto complete data...including the data collected from the address bar. This feature must be enabled, and I am fairly confident that this feature was enabled when the above test was performed.

I picked this up on the Comodo Facebook site...perhaps they should spend a little more time addressing what gets placed on their board there...

I'll just say that with all the features of Chrome, it's surely seems to be right on the edge of dangerous territory for me. But with Google Chrome users making sure they don't step over the line, I guess there won't be any problems. It's a complicated browser compared to what I'm used to I'll say that...

Here's a highlight list of items Google collects (for some data features must be enabled). The actual list is apparently much longer but at least it is public:

• Searches, or partial searches, for auto-complete suggestions: Almost entirely so that Google can throw you back some relevant results. You can disable this in Chrome's "Under the Hood" settings by un-checking the "Use a prediction service" setting.

• Searches or URL loads with Instant enabled: If you've enabled Instant in your settings, or from the about:flags section, it's safe to presume that pretty much every character you type into Chrome's address bar is sent, analyzed, and returned to you. Instant searching is not enabled by default.

• "No such page" results on some sites: If a site doesn't have its own 404/"Sorry, this page doesn't exist" that's semi-substantial, Chrome may offer its own "Maybe you meant this" page, according to Matt Cutts. You can disable this in Chrome's "Under the Hood" settings by un-checking the "Use a web service to help resolve navigation errors" setting.

• Bookmarks and other sync data: Like your Gmail, Docs, and other personal effects, Google keeps the data you want synced between browsers on its own servers, but promises to be a "responsible steward" of that data, as outlined in their general privacy policy.

• Crash reports and usage statistics, if enabled: If you checked a box during installation, or in your settings, to give Google notes and details on Chrome and how you use it, here's the kind of thing you're allowing them to have a peek at:

#8
Bala7

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... collecting harmless (unidentifiable)

All it takes is a subpoena (or not) from any law enforcement agency to match any given date/time with an IP address and any Google/Facebook/twitter service. How many times have we heard the refrain "if you're not doing anything wrong, you have noting to worry about?" No, I don't mean criminal activity but tell that ridicules piece of idiocy to a political dissident currently residing in Egypt, Greece, Spain, Argentina and Russia where political dissidence and free speech are severely punished. Unless the dissent is using something comparable to TOR, everything is identifiable. Everything!

Allow me to give you one example (I have many more) from a "free" country; my home county ... USA.
Recently a couple whistleblowers were indicted for exposing the FDA for political graft and favoritism afforded some large drug company subverting standard medical practices to bring new technologies to market. Long story short those technologies mostly through radiation poisoning, caused debilitating side effects in a large number of people with some deaths resulting. A couple employees of said pharmaceutical company adhered to their conscience, provided some US congressmen with evidence of wrongdoing and attempts at cover-ups implicating the FDA. Computer geeks at the FDA were able to ascertain identities of those whistleblowers using harmless (unidentifiable) data. It was later reveled the FDA geeks were spying I mean, obtaining analytics on congress-persons investigating the particulars.

So what happened, yep you guessed it, the whistleblowers are in jail under the USA patriot act for charges relating to using personal speech to undermine Govt. I thinks it's sometimes forgot, some use the Internet for more than mere diversion.

Privacy, who needs privacy? To paraphrase Marcus Cicero 2 millennium ago, it is very dangerous to be right when your Govt. is wrong.

As Claw suggested, SRWare Iron does offer superb privacy controls in ways official Chrome cannot.
Comodo Dragon is another choice, both are available in portable formats. Both offer addons for adware, javascript and cookie blocking.

Much more on the FDA story:
http://www.democracynow.org/2012/7/17/spying_on_scientists_how_the_fda


Google is actually monitoring your entire surfing behavior...

yes that is Google's job description. Profile every IP address and sell that to advertisers and Govt. You are not their customer you are the product.

Outside of using TOR or a properly configured VPN, you do not have anonymity. Sure, go right ahead pretend your smart, change your IP address each time a new browser session opens ... means absolutely nothing! It is trivial to find your unique digital signature.

fast-forward 14 minutes into program.
Those who would surrender liberty for security deserve neither liberty nor security. ~ Benjamin Franklin

#9
marko

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Bala, whilst I have no doubt that the example you give has merit and is a travesty of justice, the methods used to identify those people involved went far beyond the capabilities of a browser. It's possible a browser could have been used as part of an effort against those people, and if we're talking about privacy as such, a browser should be the least of our concerns as most ISP's now have the legal right to track, store and retain any amount of personally identifiable information should any authority want to view it. Let's not forget we're talking about Chrome here and it's potential to spy on us - every browser or website we enter has that capability, although Chrome may "tailor" our browsing experience a little more aggressively by matching a search with advertisements, providing auto-complete search suggestions based on previous search queries, etc, but as I say, this is, and has been for a long time, part of the Google search, not particularly part of the Chrome browser.

Do I trust Google Chrome, or even Google? ... not particularly, because they have their yearly profit forecast's at the fore of their plans, not particularly my best interest's. Do I trust any other browser? ... not particularly either, because like Chrome, they all rely on knowing what drives us searchers and browser users, so in one way or another they will collect, analyse or scrutinise whatever information they can legally get away with, whether it's directly or indirectly. The fact that Chrome will attempt to target people with tailored advertising, as a webmaster myself, can potentially mean the difference between me being able to pay for this month's hosting of FBB or not. I wouldn't condone any invasion of privacy at all, but there are always going to be certain aspects of browsing and internet usage that will track us, irrespective of which browser we use - for me personally, I'd rather concern myself with the never ending number of invasive and spyware ridden toolbars some people have installed as opposed to concerning myself with what Chrome is doing.

Irrespective of which browser we are using, the web will track you in some way, it will analyse you in whatever way it can, and it will utilise this information to make money from you - it just really depends on what level the collector is prepared to go to profit from it.
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#10
FutureShock

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Without muddying the water...I just would say this. I needed to clear this issue in my head. I hadn't realized.

Bala, I think you and marko are the two sides of this issue to pay attention to. In that light, I would say that as long as Google's default settings in Google Chrome don't retrieve more data from Chrome users than is retrieved from the users of other browsers, then Google doesn't owe them a pop up choice upon first use or a clear and obvious choice with an explanation during installation. Seriously, if the government without an announcement started using browser information to gather data on individuals...that would be bad. The appearance is that it's just so close to that now, but apparently, Google's default settings are not over the line, and there's no talk of Google conspiring with any government anywhere.

On the other hand, it's closer than I realized to the line, and I would say very close. I can see why the arrangement gets to you Bala. It gets to me a little bit, too. I am seriously afraid of Google to the point that I won't install some of their software, Google Chrome being one of them. A net buddy got me to install GoogleTalk, and maybe that was progress for me with Google, but the system and the scope of Google's services intimidates me. Seen it time and time again, and it's affected my decisions along the way...when something gets to you about something when it comes to software...stay away until you understand what it is. For that reason, I say Bala's point is very well taken, and his stance important...for himself and all the others concerned as he is about government intrusion and about protecting the important liberties that are at stake with protection of privacy issues. I'm siding with Bala, right now, when it comes to Google and this issue with Chrome. Overall, however, it's just one of those things right now where the legit viewpoints are very far apart...both legit though. Bala, you can speak loud and clear with your choice of a security browser...marko can use the Chrome he trusts as long as they don't cross the line at Google (they're lucky to have a guy like marko to believe in them). Meantime I guess we can all keep an eye on the G monsta...





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