Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lost Privacy?

Compared to the remaining entries of this blog, this one is completely off-topic: it covers the Google service Web-History, Google's Chrome browser and privacy.

Personally, most of the time I am using the Chrome browser and I am logged on with my Google account. At some time in the past I have decided to try Google's Web-History service (in German it is named Google Webprotokoll).

A few days ago I checked the entries in the web-history service. Surprise, surprise - the service works as expected ;-). Google lists each search term I have entered in Google. Thousand of entries were stored for my account - back till 2007.

Because of this huge amount of search terms I decided to delete them. I also found time to check out Google's privacy policy regarding the Web-History service in detail. Unfortunately the privacy policy of Google provides no details - it is quite unclear:

"You can delete information from Web History using the remove feature, and it will be removed from the service. However, as is common practice in the industry, and as outlined in the Google Privacy Policy, Google maintains a separate logs system for auditing purposes and to help us improve the quality of our services for users."

What does this mean? Is Google able to rebuild my search data from the mentioned log services? Is Google able to assign such a reconstructed search history to my Google account (and thus to my person)?

If the answer is NO: everything is fine because I am in control of the data. But what if the answer is YES?

Now to the second point. Chrome is the name of the superb browser from Google. It was already blamed in the past for sending data home (the data you enter in the address/search field of the browser).

Upon installation Google Chrome gets a unique ID. That means that Google is able to learn that this is your personal Chrome installation (e.g. by using Google Chrome to log on with your Google account).

What is the problem with this? Because of the unique ID Google is able to know that YOU are using the browser. This is possible at any time - even if YOU are not logged on at Google. If this knowledge is used by Google, YOU (and me too) should be quite uncomfortable with this situation.

So my question: Does Google ensure that data entered in Chrome will NOT be assigned to me (better: my personal google account) if I am not logged on?

This entry was not written to blame Google. I am fine with their services. But there are huge possibilities to misuse the logged data. And any inside information is of high interest.

P.S.: You can remove the unique ID of Chrome with the small software utility KillID (use at your own risk, maybe you are violating Chrome's license agreement!).