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back to article Google Toolbar caught tracking users when 'disabled'

Google has updated its browser toolbar after the application was caught tracking urls even when specifically "disabled" by the user. In a Monday blog post, Harvard professor and noted Google critic Ben Edelmen provided video evidence of the Google toolbar transmitting data back to the Mountain View Chocolate Factory after he …

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Unhappy

Google Phorming

I don't know much about Google toolbar, but if it's sending the entire URL to Google that's almost certainly an offense under RIPA.

Anything in a URL after the first single slash (technically, anything beyond that which is necessary to identify the machine the webpage is on, but it's usually considered to be anything after the first slash) is regarded as content, and making content available to others, ie Google, is interception.

And you can't "opt-in", for the same reasons a Phorm opt-in wouldn't be legal. For interception by consent the express permission of both parties, ie the user and the website, is needed.

Google ain't getting my permission to look at URL's for my website.

It's past time for an "evil Google" smilie option on el Reg methinks. Gates and Jobs have them, why not Google?

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WTF?

Uhh...

Yes except the Toolbar isnt intercepting any communication.

Its just grabbing a copy of the URL.

Slight difference.

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Headmaster

Re: Uhh

It's still interception, as defined in RIPA.

Note that interception as defined in RIPA doesn't have much to do with the usual meaning of the word interception - there's a whole section (section 2) devoted to defining it for the purposes of the Act.

The relevant part is ss. 2(8), "contents ... are diverted or recorded so as to be available to a person subsequently".

The last part of most URLs is defined in ss.2(9)(a) as being content - or rather as not being traffic data - though you have to have some legal knowledge to understand it !

(Yes, sad b*****d that I am, I do know most of this off by heart)

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Take reading lessons

That's what he said, but nicking full URLs is just as bad. There can be all sorts of stuff in a URL that you don't want tracked - page parameters, session IDs, files you don't want people to know are there, and so on.

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Boffin

Permission Granted...

READ the EULA!

If you don't want to, click decline not accept its that simples.

Nothing like stinky phorm.

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Stop

Legal interception

You gave Google permission to intercept communication when you installed *their* toolbar, accepting *their* terms and conditions. You need both parties consent, or a court order (warrant) to intercept electronic communications, and you gave Google permission when you installed their application.

Would you like a citation? Sure, Mr "I know RIPA from memory":

RIPA (2000) Chapter 1, Section 3 (1)(a) a communication sent by a person who has consented to the interception; and

(b) a communication the intended recipient of which has so consented.

PageRank requires the entire URL to display the rank of the page you're viewing. It even says so in the Privacy Policy (which I'm sure you've read):

http://www.google.com/support/toolbar/bin/static.py?page=privacy.html&hl=en-uk&v=

Enhanced Toolbar Features

- Toolbar's Enhanced Features, such as PageRank and Sidewiki, operate by sending Google the addresses and other information about sites at the time you visit them.

- When you use Sidewiki to write, edit or rate an entry, ***the URL of the relevant page***, the type of action that you performed and the text related to that action are sent to Google and stored with your Google Account. Your Sidewiki entries are viewable publicly and associated with your Google profile.

If you don't like the terms, don't use the software. Stop spreading FUD.

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Boffin

....in that case

don't put them in the URL - use a FORM submit instead ...

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FAIL

@READ the EULA

READ the ARTICLE.

It's doing it WHEN IT HAS BEEN DISABLED BY THE USER, numbnuts.

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Stop

BOTH parties?

"You need both parties consent, or a court order (warrant) to intercept electronic communications, and you gave Google permission when you installed their application."

So you're the 1st party, giving your consent when you install the application. And the provider of the web site you are viewing (the other party) gave their consent how exactly?

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Big Brother

Re: Legal Interception

As you point out, Google needs the consent of both the sender and the intended recipient. In this case the sender is usually the user, and the intended recipient is the owner of the webserver, though sometimes it may be the other way round.

The user may have given consent (though not when he's switched the feature off) but the owner of the webserver most definitely hasn't. Speaking for my websites, I never will.

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Jobs Horns

gSpooks

I don't know why they don't just launch a broadband, mobile phone and land-line package, acquire the Oyster Card system and the ever withering Royal Mail, and spy on us 24/7.

They could even launch a credit card company (gCredit) and condom range with integrated RFID chips so they they can monitor your sexual activity and radio your DNA back to [data] base when you're done. They could power it by whatever technology Seiko use on their Kinetic range of watches.

Oh, and gPuppies - comfortable shoes that track your every footstep. And a Picasa branded camera that automatically sends a copy of every photo you ever take back home to gMama. Not to mention gPerv - a child safety service which, once implanted under their skin behind the neck, protects your kids from 99.9% of all known perverts. Come on - can a company that PROTECTS YOUR CHILDREN really be bad? Even a little? If you think so, you must be ONE OF THE PERVERTS!

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@gSpooks

I think you are on to something, but you forgot the garbage collection service gJunk.

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Joke

Google Johnnys

Will the Google Condoms come (pardon the pun) in snazzy colours to match their logo - red, blue, green and yellow?

Maybe Steve Job's announcement later today is nothing to do with an iTablet - maybe its the new iSheath to compete with the GoogleDom! "Trying not to get up the duff? There's an app for that!"

I just hope Microsoft doesn't get in on the act - The birth rate would sky rocket and all the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation's hard work will be undone! Last thing anyone needs is their rubbers blue screening or a little paper clip popping up and saying "I see you're trying to have sex, can I help you with that?" and probably puncturing the latex with his pin like body!

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Anonymous Coward

"These condoms are a beta release

you shouldn't use them for mission-critical tasks"

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Coffee/keyboard

Owe me....keyboard.

Guffaw.

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Thumb Up

Garbage collection?

Wouldn't that mean most of Microsoft's output would disappear?

(and is that a bad thing?)

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thanks

Thanks for sharing [IMG]http://tinytwitt.com/content/23/smile.gif[/IMG]

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Stop

You don't just disable Google Toolbar

You uninstall it, along with every other toolbar that might come near your Internet browser.

I deeply hate those toolbar pests and I feel sorry for each and every one of the people I know who end up having 4 or 5 of them at the same time in their browser, without even knowing how they got them and what is their purpose.

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or knowing they are there

"without even knowing how they got them and what is their purpose."

I would add: "and without even knowing these toolbars are add-ons not native to the browser".

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Coat

You don't just disable Google Toolbar

Or even - ohh this is scary - not trust IE to be secure. That was the first shock, someone concerned about security using MS products.

Mines the one with SE-Linux Master Class book in the pocket.

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JBH
Stop

Hate the Google toolbar...

...infact ANY toolbar.

I won't let 'em within ten miles of my browser. Utterly useless trinkets, the only point of which is to try and tie you into a particular brand.

The amount of software that has irrelevant toolbars thrown in these days is appalling. It makes me want to go all open-source and grow a beard!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hate the Google toolbar

"The amount of software that has irrelevant toolbars thrown in these days is appalling. It makes me want to go all open-source and grow a beard!"

That's not a panacea, sadly. For example PDFCreator excretes a toolbar onto your browser by default.

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Open source

"The amount of software that has irrelevant toolbars thrown in these days is appalling. It makes me want to go all open-source and grow a beard"

My experience is that open source software seems to be more likely to try and install toolbars. Case in point, yesterday pdfcreator (the one from sourceforge) wanted to install Yahoo toolbar.

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Big Brother

Re. Hate the Googlebar

It makes me want to go all open-source and grow a beard!

Ah, beards are not compusory especially for the ladies!

I did note that the bug/feature is only applicable to MS IE.

Score one for Firefox.Seamonkey, Opera etc then.

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Pint

Muppets with "toolbars"

Waste of screen space too! I run my browser (FF) in kiosk, full screen mode on my tiny notebook I need all the space I can get , the last thing you need is this privacy invading, CPU wasting, screen filling BS trinket!

Stop feeling the need to ally with a brand you brain-dead muppets! "Oh, define me! Define me! I feel a spiritual bond with Google, Starbucks, Apple, whatever-wank, etc! They speak to me in ways people can't or don't!", yeah 'cos you're a f**king idiot, that's why people won't speak to you anymore!

Grrrrr!

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Silver badge

Bug?

Horseshit.

Just say no to google. It's an accident waiting to happen.

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Bug?

Not at all. It's a Feature...

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Alert

Google (performance clobbering) Toolbar

Why would any intelligent user want any add-on surplus toolbar which does God knows what "under the covers", potentially clobbering your PC's performance. The stuff provided with good browsers give you the tools to do most things. (Don't get me started on Smileys, though!).

Like the man says - "Say no to Google" - Just use their search engine.

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Thumb Up

You Got It In One!

Why would any INTELLIGENT user want any add-on surplus tool bar.

Google (Bing, Yahoo, Ask et al) ar NOT interested in "intelligent" users because they know they are blocking ad's, rejecting cookies and disembowling toolbars.

Google (Bing, Yahoo, Ask et al) are after the MILLIONS of people who want:

"Free" animated smiley's in their chat session (Click, yes I agree, click, yes I'll have the Bing toolbar),

"Free" PDF reader (Click, yes I agree, click, yes I'll have the Yahoo toolbar), a "free" something "free" useless piece of shite (Click, yes I agree, click, yes I'll have the whatever tool bar you are offering)

You see we are all very clever on the El Reg forums and self righteous and brand aligned (regardless of your choice of phone, O/S, browser etc, lets face it everyone who doesn’t use the same as you is a fucking idiot right) but these toolbars rely on MILLIONS of people NOT CARING or not KNOWING what they are PAYING for their "free" software

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Anonymous Coward

bears shit in the woods

It's a browser toolbar, of course it's spying on you.

Browser toolbars were designed to be thinly veiled spyware delivery systems from day one. Show me one that DOESN'T spy on you and I'll show you a news worthy article.

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FAIL

In other news...

... people comment on an article without even reading the title

The whole point of the article is that the google bar keeps spying on the user even when it is *disabled* as in "the disable button doesn't work and is giving the user a false sense of security"

Everybody knows the toolbars are spyware, but if you disable it you'd expect it to stay DISABLED

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Anonymous Coward

JBH has it right

Just don't install toolbars - any of them.

I'm still surprised to see Yahoo! malware included in the Java JRE...

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Headmaster

Bug?

Or designed in?

More likely the later and then...ooops we got found out, let's pretend it's a mistake.

Anyone that thinks that Googles logo is Do No Evil is a promise to be good, rememeber this, evil is a subjective word.

The gaining as much knowledge and wealth as possible could be seen as a good thing to some, but I tend to disagree.

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Re: Everyone hating the Google toolbar

Funny, it's the first thing I add to Firefox on a new install. I disable every feature on it apart from the "Find & Highlight words on the page" option, I couldn't live without that. It's so much easier to find the keywords I've searched for on a page than having to re-type the in to the find toolbar,

Any other toolbar is banished from my machine.

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Anonymous Coward

Are you sure?

My computer highlights the words I searched for and I don't have any toolbar whatsoever, and I'm fairly sure it's not one of my addons. I thought that was just something google did when you navigated to a page from a search.

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@Iron Oxide

Just gave it a go with the Google toolbar disabled, and there was no highlighting when following links from Google. I know certain sites do highlighting, but they tend to be forums and the search terms are appended to the URI. Actually, I've never liked the highlighting as it makes it harder to read, but the keyword find function is bloody handy.

Google chrome didn't do keyword find either, and I didn't even bother trying with IE as even if it did do what I wanted, I still wouldn't use it.

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Anonymous Coward

la la la Google tool ba....oh I see!

Let the evil doing, BEGIN!

FLY MY PRETTIES, FLY!!!!

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Anonymous Coward

Toolbars

The first thing I do when fixing PC's is uninstall all the toolbars and such.

I recall one PC where the owner was using a 32" screen because he had so many toolbars using up his page space.

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FAIL

Please tell me if I'm missing something...

...but don't a large number of browsers now have a "search" box in the toolbar anyway - without any intervention from Google, Bing (lol) or anyone else?

If a toolbar comes within a million miles of my browser then I remove it (and then scour the registry for nasties because I've had experiences of them mysteriously reinstalling themselves after every reboot)

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Thumb Down

How long...

How long till we all have to have our brains scanned by the new gWhatIsInSideYourHeadMachine?

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Linux

Bug?

OK, I am going against the grain of the rest of the posts here but I do give Google the benefit of the doubt and saying that this could be a bug. Considering the size of Google and the amount of programmers they have at hand I find it quite unacceptable.

I would agree with JBH in the fact that I completely dislike the concept of toolbars and how they are forced down our throats. Come on, who in his right mind does not get pi**ed off whenever there is a Java update and that sodding Yahoo toolbar option is always ticked.

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Gold badge
FAIL

What about the AV angle?

So apparently there's been some spyware in broad circulation for ages and NONE of the AV companies have picked it up? We're always being told that these products watch out-going traffic as well as incoming, so if they work as advertised (a big "if") then it must have shown up in the AV companies' labs. Whilst I can understand that they wouldn't respond by black-listing Google, I would certainly have expected them to *report* the behaviour as a bug. The fact that they didn't proves that their anti-spyware credentials are worthless.

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Silver badge

What is it for anyway?

I've got the plugins I want to play with on my customised (native) toolbar, I have my search box (where I can change sources) and I have my address bar (well, "Wow bar" or whatever).

WTF does Google toolbar give me? The weather? Don't need that; I can look outside, check clock in the panel or have a glance at conky.

Security/Privacy? That's what NoScript, AdBlock, TrackMeNot etc. are for.

Local search? Well I appear to have Catfish for that...but I've never used it (yet - I generally have documents in a proper doc management system).

So....WTF does the Google Toolbar give me? Other than an attack on my personal privacy of course.

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Anonymous Coward

What is the point...

...of Google toolbar? Or any of those type of toolbars? Always been a complete mystery to me. Why on earth would anyone need it? I don't get it, at all.

I want to search the net, I go to Scroogle/Altavista/binsearch or whatever.

If I want to check the weather, I go to the BBC weather site, and so on...

Are people really that lazy they need everything on a bar at the top of the screen? Beats me!

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Bug? Pah!

It's not a bug - or at least it wasn't until they got caught.

No free toolbars for me, thanks. They're too expensive.

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Anonymous Coward

meh

Just don't install any crapware "browser toolbars".

Hell, the amount of things that try and ram the yagoo toolbar down your throat, too, is getting astounding. Tinfoil hats on, I don't trust any of them not to do something bad, whether through malice or just through sheer incompetance.

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WTF?

What's a toolbar?

Just joking. I know what they are and if I get my hands on a PC with them I uninstall them.

Never had one on my PC though as an Opera user it's something I never have to worry about.

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Anonymous Coward

An offenced under DPA 1998, BUT........

dont think that wanker called the ICO will do anything about it because, from my own experience, they are just not interested in doing anything about anyone that breaches the DPA at all. Seriously, dont bother Notifying the ICO because even if they catch you without registration all you need to do is smile and say you didnt know you had to and thats it . Really the DPA is a big big joke.

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Happy

Toolbars and tattoos

Toolbars and Tattoos are very similar in that the pleb getting them thinks they are going to be so different from all the other plebs, but in point of fact it just identifies them as a pleb. Also the same in so much as once you've got them and the novelty has worn off, they wished they'd never done it in the first place. The only reason for ever having a tattoo is perhaps to show a blood group. Toolbars? search your computer too pfft get a an operating system with a decent search facility, like spotlight

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