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Is Google Turning Into Big Brother?


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While we're transfixed by the presidential election, in the world of high tech another duel between two well-funded, take-no-quarter candidates has just emerged … and in the long run the impact on our daily lives may be nearly as great -- and perhaps even sinister.


As you probably heard, on labor day, Monday -- that is, on a national holiday, when business announcements are almost never made -- Google rolled out Chrome, its new Web browser. ...But why would a company that knows it has a solid and newsworthy product on its hands intentionally dampen media coverage of it?


The answer, I think, was that it was a long-term strategic decision to make Chrome look almost like an afterthought. And I think that decision was made at the highest levels of Google, perhaps by CEO Eric Schmidt. Why? Because Google's ambitions are bigger than most of us have ever imagined, and the company is now rich enough, and powerful enough, to execute them -- even if it means the short-term sacrifice of a major new revenue source.


One more thing: If Google pulls off this strategy, it will be the most valuable company on the planet. It will also be the scariest … and we should start worrying about that right now.


First, a little background. Google sits at the confluence of two historic Silicon Valley philosophical streams.


One, which comes from Sergey Brinn and Larry Page, the two founders, reaches back all of the way to the early days of computing and continues forward through the world of gamers, hackers, Apple and the Web 2.0 generation. It is essentially utopian in its belief that technology -- especially the Web -- will bring about a better world (hence, Google's "Don't Be Evil" motto).


It also has absolutist (some would even say totalitarian) tendencies, in that it also believes that the empiricism of science and technology supersedes messy human institutions. It is proudly amoral, which is why it can celebrate hackers -- or for that matter, Steve Jobs -- as heroes, as long as they remain innovators.


Google is now one of the world's most valuable and influential companies. Much of the planet's population passes through its simple and friendly portals every day, and in the process it has snatched up a sizable chunk of the advertising money out there. Meanwhile, no one talks much about Microsoft these days.


Did Google Lie?


If anything, the dreams of both have just begun to unfold. Schmidt seems no longer content to defeat Microsoft, but to become it -- and more. Moreover, he's got the army of brilliant, amoral young foot soldiers to do the job.


Remember, for these young techno-utopians, technology trumps all, even privacy. We saw a glimpse of that earlier this year when Facebook, that seemingly benign social network for young people, quietly implemented Beacon, which tracked users' purchases and then notified their friends in hopes of influencing their future purchases. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg professed surprise at the massive backlash against Beacon and shut it down -- but left the door opened for future surveillance programs.


But nowhere is the power to apply technology for its own sake more available than at Google. And despite the company's motto, and childlike logo and home page, this is the real driving force behind the company. And the long-term goal of this applied technology? Google has already said it: to manage all of the world's information.

Five years ago, this seemed harmless enough, even welcome. The Web is a huge, messy place -- so what's wrong with having some help navigating through it? But as Google has grown larger, and after it has taken over the big, general stuff (the Web) and begun focusing on the smaller, more specialized stuff (libraries, personal records, search patterns) that we begin to understand what "all" means ... and what Google is willing to do to get it.


For example, a couple weeks ago, in a barely noticed blog entry, reporter Clint Boulton of Computerworld recounted a conversation he'd had with a Google insider who admitted that whatever the company was saying publicly -- and to Congress -- about user privacy, it was indeed tracking not just user search trails, but also their identities -- so-called "Deep Packet Inspection." The entry drew few readers, and no comments, but it did attract attention from one source: A senior Google executive called the magazine to get it to back off the story.


Even if true, had Google lied to Congress about user privacy? Probably not -- at least not in the way that Google had carefully phrased its words.


Then there is Google's odd acquiescence to the demands by authoritarian regimes around the world, especially China, to censor its search operations in those countries. These actions, inexplicable at the time, only become clear when one assumes that Google's real business now is not providing a service to its users, but in owning the world's data.


And that brings us back to Chrome. Why so low key an introduction? And why suddenly turn on a solid partnership with browser provider Mozilla? The answer, I think, has two parts.

Google: From Microsoft Killer to Big Brother?


First, Google believes that Chrome could be its Microsoft killer. Not only does it have the potential to beat MS Explorer but, fulfilling Ellison's old dream, it could be a way to let users easily download applications from the Web -- and thus circumvent Microsoft's lock on Office, even Windows, the very core of its business.


But a second reason is more sinister. Only a few people have noticed that, until recently, in the Terms of Service for signing up for Chrome, Google demands "perpetual, irrevocable, world-wide, royalty free and non-exclusive" license to any materials users create with the browser. (Google on Thursday announced that it was rescinding the clause.)


And that's only part of the story: An earlier reviewer of Chrome, Andrew Cheung of TGDaily, has noted that the browser almost seems to work "too well." For example, Cheung found that with a few keystrokes, Chrome will go into an online banking site and find account numbers, balances and transaction activity. Cheung suggests that it is a security flaw in the product. I'm not so sure.


Microsoft only wanted all of our money. Increasingly, it seems that Google wants all of our data. In running away from the evil empire, have we now instead rushed into the arms of Big Brother?


Please comment-----------------

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This is all making sense to me now.


Let the Browser wars Begin.


Since last year Google has been aquiring programers to integrate its search technology and develop Firefox as an alternative to Microsoft.


In January, Google Inc. hired the lead engineer behind the Mozilla Firefox Web browser, who splits his time between the search company and the open-source project.


Ben Goodger, who helped shepherd the Firefox 1.0 release that has dug into Microsoft Corp.'s browser dominance, joined Google as a full-time employee earlier this month. While Goodger is a full-time Google employee, Google also is donating half of his time back to the Mozilla Foundation, Google spokesman Steve Langdon said.




On 3 September, a Slashdot news item drew attention to a passage in the terms of service for the initial beta release, which seemed to grant to Google a license to all content transferred via the Chrome browser. The passage in question was inherited from the general Google terms of service. The Register summarized the passage as "Your copyright goes up in smoke." On the same day, Google responded to this criticism by stating that the language used was borrowed from other products, and removed the passage in question from the Terms of Service. Google noted that this change would "apply retroactively to all users who have downloaded Google Chrome."

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Here is the Google Terms of Service




8.3 Google reserves the right (but shall have no obligation) to pre-screen, review, flag, filter, modify, refuse or remove any or all Content from any Service.


Users quickly began raising privacy concerns about data collection in Chrome. The omnibar's auto-suggest features send data back to Google about the keystrokes inputted. A Google representative said that about 2% of the data would be stored along with the IP address of the computer that sent the data. Google also stated users can opt-out by turning off the auto-suggest feature or switching to Incognito.


Here is Google Chrome privacy notice.




When you type URLs or queries in the address bar, the letters you type are sent to Google so the Suggest feature can automatically recommend terms or URLs you may be looking for. If you choose to share usage statistics with Google and you accept a suggested query or URL, Google Chrome will send that information to Google as well. You can disable this feature as explained here.

If you navigate to a URL that does not exist, Google Chrome may send the URL to Google so we can help you find the URL you were looking for. You can disable this feature as explained here.

Google Chrome's SafeBrowsing feature periodically contacts Google's servers to download the most recent list of known phishing and malware sites. In addition, when you visit a site that we think could be a phishing or malware site, your browser will send Google a hashed, partial copy of the site's URL so that we can send more information about the risky URL. Google cannot determine the real URL you are visiting from this information. More information about how this works is here.

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. We use crash reports to diagnose and try to fix any problems with the browser.

You may choose Google as your search engine using Google Chrome, and you may also use Google Chrome to access other Google services such as Gmail. The Privacy Policies of Gmail or other services apply when you access them, no matter which browser you use. Using Google Chrome to connect to Google services will not cause Google to receive any special or additional personally identifying information about you.


Information that Google receives when you use Google Chrome is processed in order to operate and improve Google Chrome and other Google services. Information that other website operators receive is subject to the privacy polices of those websites. Google Chrome stores information on your machine in order to improve the browser’s performance and provide you with features, such the option to review snapshots from pages you have visited.

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I use Firefox and like it. But I also have a Gmail account through Google, but not the Chrome browser can they still get my info from just using GMail?


I just do not like the idea of someone knowing or potentially telling me what I can look at or read on the internet. OH, and for clarification I do not go to **adult material** sites, lol.



Google is trying to become the largest monopoly of web. Now, I will have to delelop web sites that work with Chrome. I do not understand why Google created their V8 javascript, when they knew that Tracemonkey is going to blow it out of the water.



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I use Firefox and like it. But I also have a Gmail account through Google, but not the Chrome browser can they still get my info from just using GMail?


I just do not like the idea of someone knowing or potentially telling me what I can look at or read on the internet. OH, and for clarification I do not go to **adult material** sites, lol.


Anyone who uses Google is tracked with the specifics stored for 9 months. If you have signed up for an account (i.e Gmail) that nine month rule does not apply and they reserve the right to keep the personal data in indefinitely.

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Guest BlackSun_*

I just went comment about this story on the Washington Post web site.




Chrome: Google's New Browser Launches

Google introduced a Web browser today, a piece of software that the company has secretly had in the works for two years.


"There have been a lot of advances in the browser space," said Sundar Pichai, Google's vice president of product management in a news conference earlier today as he showed off the software, called Chrome, and its features. "[but] we believe that browsers should evolve a lot more to keep pace with how the Web is evolving."


One feature that Google is pitching as compelling for the new browser is the way it can let people surf the Web with multiple tabs open, even after one tab has frozen or even crashed. Ever have to restart your browser software after one tab got stuck loading a site? Chrome, says Google, doesn't do that.


Google also touts the browser as having "one box for everything" -- meaning that there's only one box users need to go to to type in Web navigation or search commands. If a user frequently visits Amazon.com, the browser will remember that user's habits and offer to open up the e-tailer's Web sites as soon as he or she types in a letter or two.


An "Incognito" mode will let users surf the Web in a private mode that prevents information from being saved to the computer.


Pichai said that Chrome is "kind of an ironic name" for the browser. The name, it turns out, refers to the window frames, menus and toolbars that browser users are accustomed to seeing as they surf the Web every day. Google's intention with the project was to keep such distractions as unobtrusive as possible. "The goal was to make people forget they are using a browser," he said.


To explain to techies its arguments for why Chrome is an improvement on other browsers, Google has published a comic book online that drills into the some pretty dry aspects of the new browser's software and why it's an improvement on the competition.


Tech industry analyst Roger Kay said this morning that he sees Google's move into this area as partly a defensive play. The search engine giant wants to provide users with Web surfing software that it knows will work well with its other products and services, he said. That way, Google is in a better position to protect its business if Microsoft comes up with more ways to integrate its Internet Explorer browser with its own search service, for example.


Chrome is available for download here. This beta version of the software is only for Windows computers; Mac and Linux versions are on the way.


I tried to comment on my opinion of the story. And they locked it, so it would not have more responses.



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A Technology Blog From The Washington Post - (washingtonpost.com)

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Looks like the Washington Post is afraid to let users speak out. Interesting.

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Hey!! didn't aol also try this game as well?


"But a second reason is more sinister. Only a few people have noticed that, until recently, in the Terms of Service for signing up for Chrome, Google demands "perpetual, irrevocable, world-wide, royalty free and non-exclusive" license to any materials users create with the browser. (Google on Thursday announced that it was rescinding the clause.)"


All of that free talent out there just waiting to be exploited. I still like that old saying "Buyer beware", but in our case "since we are internet users" Internet User Beware.


On a side note; How did you all like the last link of the month?


Considering that there is a major hacker battle going on now in the Middle East. That is why I posted a security link.


<It's rather breathe taking on how these hacker battles play out, and the tactics used.>

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That was definitely cool. We several thousand ip no.s we have blocked now. Spammers are nuts. I think many publications are afraid of Google's power. They do not want to say anything bad, because they might get penalized. At this point I can say that is not the case. And they still have the best search around.

Edited by Luke_Wilbur
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