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Chrome – the All Seeing Eye of Google?

Lee Hower
September 2, 2008 · 2  min.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Lots of people are obviously talking about Google’s new web browser Chrome, which was somewhat surreptitiously launched over the Labor Day holiday here in the US. I don’t really know how to interpret a product launched via comic strip…

But as far as I can tell, precious few are commenting specifically about the privacy implications of Google-powered browser software. I did searches on both Google and Technorati for “Chrome privacy” and didn’t turn up much. The majority of the Google results are for door locks (with chrome finish) and Technorati isn’t much better at least as of this moment (2 random results when I searched at ~10am ET).

Google already knows a lot about us as internet users. Depending which services we consume they already know everything we search for, everything in our email (Gmail), what banner ads we see and where we see them (Doubleclick), what RSS feeds we read (Reader), etc. If you use the Google toolbar with an existing web browser (IE, Firefox) and permit Google to collect data about your surfing habits, then they know even more.

I personally think Google generally does a better than average job with privacy, making appropriate disclosures and providing opt in/out mechanisms, and I’m basically comfortable with my user relationship with them. But with the Chrome browser Google will theoretically be able to know literally everything about your web surfing: what sites you visit, what links you click, what images you download, how long you spend at any site, etc.

We don’t know exactly how privacy will work with Chrome since as of now, Google has taken down links for the beta download and privacy policy (try it if you want, broken as of this posting). And by providing the code on an open source basis, the developer community should at least be able to explore the data collection practices of the Chrome browser.

As a user I look forward to trying Chrome and as a tech industry observer I’m interested to see how Browser Wars 2.0 plays out. I care about privacy, but I’m not exactly hyper paranoid or a total privacy hound that erases every single cache and uses a proxy for all surfing. But is it just me that’s starting to feel a twinge of nervousness about everything Google might know about me?

Lee Hower
Lee is a co-founder and Partner at NextView Ventures. He has spent his entire career as an entrepreneur and investor in early-stage software and internet startups.