Why don't you just call it Google Proxy… don't be evil mmmkay?

September 20, 2005

Saw this on Jeremy Zawodny’s blog

Taking it one step further than Google Web Accelerator, we have Google Secure Access. Instead of just your browsing through Firefox going through Google, they now have a downloadable that encrypts and routes all your net traffic through Google’s servers.

Upside: if you use an unsecured WiFi network (either completely open or WEP “protected” – can you really call it protected if it can be broken in a matter of minutes?) the Secure Access client would be nice. It’s pretty much VPN-grade security for everyone and of course, it’s free!

Downside? Well… what are they doing with all your net traffic history? Here’s an excerpt from their GSA privacy policy:

Google may log some information from your web page requests as may the websites that you visit. We do this to understand how Google Secure Access is being used and to improve our services.

Ok, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say they are hopefully just using aggregate metrics to optimize and improve the service. Worst case though is that “understand how Google Secure Access is being used” means understand how you personally use the Internet. Ok, ok, enough conspiracy theory.

For any other concerns, it refers you to the standard Google Privacy Policy. So I clicked through and started reading it. I got to this part:

Google collects limited non-personally identifying information your browser makes available whenever you visit a website. This log information includes your Internet Protocol address, browser type, browser language, the date and time of your query and one or more cookies that may uniquely identify your browser. We use this information to operate, develop and improve our services.

Ok, I guess my IP address and a unique browser cookie aren’t specifically personally identifying, but what if I log in to a Google Account and have the credentials cached? Does that get tracked along with these other stats?

Either way, it makes me feel like I’m being watched… oh well, if GMail taught us anything, we’ll trade privacy for convenience any day πŸ˜‰

UPDATE: I see Nathan Weinberg over at InsideGoogle picked this up too. Methinks we have a similar read on the service, but I’m willing to give them benefit of the doubt while he says “follow the money”.


No Responses Yet to “Why don't you just call it Google Proxy… don't be evil mmmkay?”

  1. luke Says:

    You are always extremely critic with Google, why? πŸ˜‰

    BTW I think you are right, Google wants to collect info about users’ behavior, how they use internet, where and what they click …
    Google needs this infos to improve its services, no doubt, before with Web Accelerator and now with Secure Access.

  2. Methinks that if Google wants this data, there are plenty of people willing to give it up, so why not just ask for it instead of trying to use a sly backdoor? Alexa has proven that people will install products specifically designed to track their movements.

  3. markjen Says:

    Hi Luke, I don’t think I’m biased against Google persay; I’ve got plenty of stuff to say about Microsoft and Yahoo as well πŸ˜‰

    And of course, if someone says “My motto is ‘don’t be evil'”, then I’m going to hold them to that.

  4. markjen Says:

    Nathan – Interesting point. Google’s in a dominant position though, so if they openly claimed to be tracking people they might just use up that list bit of trust people have in them.

  5. luke Says:

    > Hi Luke, I don’t think I’m biased against Google persay

    Hi mark, I know … I was joking, I appreciate your style πŸ˜‰

  6. markjen Says:

    Oh… hehe cool, thanks πŸ™‚

  7. Unblock Me Says:

    Just wanted to thank you for a really good post. I found it quite useful and will check your site often.

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