Google agrees to Chrome privacy changes

Would you trust this browser with your darkest secrets?

Google's suggestion engine, which is central to new browser Chrome, will be changed to address privacy concerns according to the company's blog.

The ugly word of the moment is 'anonymize' for that's what Google says it will do to cover the tracks of its users. The blog made reference to both the new Google application Suggest, as well as the Chrome browser in general.

Just a suggestion

Suggest is designed for faster, easier searching, and is featured not only in applications like search, Toolbar, and the search app found on the iPhone, but browsers like Chrome and Firefox.

Google Suggest works much like predictive texting. When you begin to type a word, Suggest will finish it for you and complete a selection of phrases that it figures might be relevant to your needs. Thus, if you were to type 'Goo…', it might offer first 'Google' and then 'world domination', 'would never lie to you,' or 'is your one true friend.' Well that's our guess.

Under 'Another Step to Protect User Privacy' the official Google blog today said:

"Given the concerns that have been raised about Google storing this information – and its limited potential use – we decided that we will anonymize it within about 24 hours (basically as soon as we can) in the two per cent of Google Suggest requests we use. This will take time to implement, but we expect it to be in place before the end of the month.

"All data prevention is a balance between user privacy and trust on the other hand, and security and innovation on the other. In the case of Google Suggest we decided it's possible to provide a great service while anonymizing data almost immediately."

Nine month wait

In the greater scheme of things, Google has also halved the time it will take to anonymize the IP addresses on its server logs of those using its standard search bar from 18 months to nine (see Google pledge nine months anonymity). While this seems a positive step for those concerned with security issues, doubts persist about the as yet undecided methods it will use.

Some experts feel that to truly keep data private Google would have to remove all IP addresses, associated cookies and any other identifying information in the log. It's far from certain that Google would go this far. Only removing some of the IP address, for example, would not offer the same guarantees.

Peter Schaar, Germany's data protection commissioner, said yesterday that his office has instigated an inquiry into whether Google's Chrome was correlating and collecting personal data in violation of the country's data protection law.

A Google spokesperson, on the other hand, said no such warning had been issued.

Well, I guess they don't know everything.