Friday, June 09, 2006 

Not This Time, Google

Yesterday, google announced a new product called Google Browser Sync. This is a Firefox extension that will upload your bookmarks, history, saved passwords, and cookies to Google's server and then sync them with all computers that you link. Normally I love Google products, but this time I'm gona have to pass. There are a number of things wrong with this extension: First of all, I already allow Google access to my emails, searches, web page statistics and I'm sure much more. When I tried Google Desktop I was concerned about Google phoning home and my entire hard drive to the list of things that Google collects, but I was able to put my fears at ease by simply blocking Google Desktop access to the internet via my firewall. Do we really need Google to know every single web site I have visited? Why should Google know my password for my PayPal account? Also, Google Syncing your passwords does not seem very secure to me. First of all, although these passwords may be semi secure, they are not going to be transmitted over a secure server, therefore these passwords could be at a potential risk of being stolen. Additionally, if they are not picked up via transition someone could possibly capture all of your passwords by cracking your Google account. Lastly, there is already an alternative for syncing your Bookmarks, which I currently use. It is much more basic than Google Browser Sync, whereas it only syncs Bookmarks but it does have a nice feature that allows you to view your books marks via a web page instead of having to sync them onto a browser. Also, if someone has to have my personal information, I would rather it be kept by separate companies, instead of Google compiling a massive database of me. Update: Upon further investigation it looks like there is an option to encrypt the data that is sent to Google, which I guess would make it more secure. Google claims that "By encrypting your information...without the PIN, not even Google, will be able to read your data" but I'm not sure that I believe that, not that I have any reason not to. Also this is an option that is not on by default and I am sure that the majority of users will no turn this on. Google even discourages users from turning this feature on asserting "..encrypting all of your browser settings may affect the performance of Google Browser Sync and Firefox." Clearly this extension was developed with the intention of gathering user information.

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