Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Google Is Watching You

Open source software can be sold as a good, service, or insuranceThis morning I was fighting against some nasty little bug and it got to a point where I needed some additional tool to squash the villain: a tool that would show me the HTTP headers sent back by my web application. For this, I used LiveHTTPHeaders, a nice and simple extension for Firefox.

Accessing again my web application with LiveHTTPHeaders on, I was surprised to see how many requests were sent by the browser. Looking closely, I saw that for each page, there were two additional requests, and both were going to Google:

  • http://www.google.com/safebrowsing/lookup?...
  • http://toolbarqueries.google.com/search?...

Those queries happen because I have installed two Firefox extensions from Google: the Safe Browsing and the Toolbar extensions. Now of course, I am the one who has installed those extensions and was at the time well aware that "data will be transmitted to Google for your benefit". But actually seeing all those queries done in the background has some chilling effect, even on someone who is not too concerned about privacy issues. I will keep those extensions, but Google has better stick to their "Don't be evil" motto!

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