Chrome didn't survive long...

September 3, 2008 at 9:31 PMAndre Loker

... on my computer. Less than 24 h after I downloaded Google's first own browser I already uninstalled it. Sure, it's slick and lightning fast. But I can't help it: I don't trust it.

Excerpt from the "Google Chrome Privacy Notice":

Your copy of Google Chrome includes one or more unique application numbers. These numbers and information about your installation of the browser (e.g., version number, language) will be sent to Google when you first install and use it and when Google Chrome automatically checks for updates.  If you choose to send usage statistics and crash reports to Google, the browser will send us this information along with a unique application number as well.  Crash reports can contain information from files, applications and services that were running at the time of a malfunction.

It's not completely new that software has a unique ID which is frequently sent back "home". Firefox also has a unique ID used for the auto update feature (see Firefox Privacy Policy, search for "Automated Update Service"). It's the fact that everything you search for, everything you enter into the "Omnibox" is sent to Google (at least in the default configuration if Google is your search engine). It does not take much to come up with some really scary scenarios in which your ID is combined with your search profile. I'm not saying Google is doing it or planning it, I'm just pointing out that with Chrome there's a much higher potential for Google to profile individual usage behaviour.

Still convinced of Chrome? Read on. Excerpt from the "Google Chrome Terms of Service" (Update: this has been changed in the meantime by Google and does not represent the current state of the EULA, see "Update 3" below)

11. Content license from you

11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

11.2 You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.

11.3 You understand that Google, in performing the required technical steps to provide the Services to our users, may (a) transmit or distribute your Content over various public networks and in various media; and (b) make such changes to your Content as are necessary to conform and adapt that Content to the technical requirements of connecting networks, devices, services or media. You agree that this license shall permit Google to take these actions.

11.4 You confirm and warrant to Google that you have all the rights, power and authority necessary to grant the above license.

I'm no lawyer, but this sounds very much like "Google has the right to do whatever they like with the data you send and receive using their services". This is unacceptable.

Call me a follower, call be paranoid, call be simple-hearted. But I'm not willing to take part in this new chapter of informational transparency. I know that Google is by far not the only threat for privacy. But the more we combine different services of one specific provider the more traceable we become. I'm always open for a discussion, so if you feel like being able to convince me, have a shot at it!

Thanks to Hennie for pointing me to the Chrome terms of service.

Update: "This Post Not Made In Chrome; Google's EULA Sucks" - a nice post from someone who actually is a lawyer.

Update 2: As far as I understand, Chromium (the open source project on which Google Chrome is based) does not fall under the same terms of service, so chances are that if you're using a Chromium build you don't grant any license for submitted content to Google.

Update 3: In the meantime Google has replaced paragraph 11 of the Chrome Eula:

11. Content license from you

11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.

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Google Chrome Beta available

September 2, 2008 at 9:34 PMAndre Loker

Google has released a beta version of it's browser Chrome. I've just downloaded it and only browsed over some sites I frequently use so I can't give an in-depth review. At least so far everything worked fine.

I just wanted to let you know some thoughts of mine regarding Chrome:

  • Google is big, no doubt (in Germany Google has around 80% market share for search engines, at least that's what I heard). This combined with the fact that Google has proven to be capable of releasing powerful and useful applications in the past (Picasa, Google Earth) I think they have a good chance to gain a notable market share. But that's exactly the point that scares me. As of now Google defines what we can find on the Internet. In the future, will Google define how we consume it? Separation of power is an important concept of democracy, you know.
  • Chrome tries to redefine from scratch what a browser should do. Web has changed dramatically in the last years, so this intention comes right on time.
  • This comic strip regarding the Chrome technology is worth reading.
  • I've never optimised a site for WebKit, so I'm curious how this turns out
  • After several minutes of using Chrome I'm already missing my favourite Firefox plug ins: web developer toolbar, AdBlock plus, Firebug and YSlow

All in all I'm excited as well as skeptical. I guess time will tell.

Posted in: Tools