Microsoft accuses Google of stealing user privacy with shoddy presentation

by: Bradley Wint on April 5th, 2010 at 6:10 pm


According to a video report by Microsoft’s TechNet Edge blog, they claim that Google uses Chrome to gather data about its users. The video is mainly used to demonstrate the safety and privacy Internet Explorer 8 offers for its users. IE product manager Pete LePage starts of the demonstration using a program called Fiddler, which monitors Internet traffic when requests are made via the browser.

If you are familiar with Chrome, you may know that the address bar doubles as a search engine. It also takes the Auto Complete function featured in other browsers and auto suggests possible search phrases as you type in a keyword. When you type the characters of a word, it is obvious that it sends the data to Google to come up with suggested words, making your search possibly easier. On a positive side, it does its job quite well, but when the traffic was monitored with Fiddler, it showed that all keywords typed were sent to Google.

From a privacy point of view, a hardcore would say that their actions resemble that of keylogging, making a lot of people concerned about Chrome. Users are concerned that the sent data may be used for marketing purposed, and some are afraid that their personal information may get put into the wrong hands. Imagine those guys ordering sex toys…I’m pretty sure they don’t want the world knowing that.

The demonstration then goes on to show that while Chrome loads up requested sites, it still pulls data for use by Google. Internet Explorer 8 then takes the stand. Before I go there though, he did mention that the address and search function boxes are kept separate to maintain privacy, so suggestive features are not intertwined with URL entries. Back to the test now. When a phrase was typed in the address bar, no traffic was measured, and when a site was then requested he says that data is only retrieved from the site and that none is sent to Google.

There was also a quick demo of their in privacy feature.

However Mr. LePage made some fundamental errors in his marketing video, or maybe he selectively forgot to mention some key points. All modern browsers, whether they be Firefox, IE8, Chrome or Opera send data to the selected search provider (not just Google Search) when the keys are stroked to suggest possible complete keywords. This means that Bing, Yahoo and others also gather data to determine keywords. The only big difference was that Chrome had one bar for both addresses and search keywords, while other browsers including IE8 separated them into two.

It’s a very bold statement in Microsoft’s behalf to accuse Google of data collection, when they are also guilty of it. As a matter of fact, no one really knows the extent of what data they collect when users search the web, so it would be unfair for them to say that IE8 is much more private than Chrome.

Check out the full video below (you need Silverlight to view it).

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Even though I didn’t have to prove this point, it’s still worth showing. I did a simple search in both Chrome and IE8, using Bing and Google Search in each to see whether they are suggestive. As you can see, Bing collects data for suggestions, both in IE8 and Chrome, so if Microsoft wants to say Google is not protecting privacy, then they should stick a boot in their mouth.

I am not saying that Google should get away for these privacy concerns, but merely highlighting how the guys at Microsoft are trying to fool us with wordplay.


Have Something To Say? 3 Others Did!

  • dox – April 5th, 2010 – 8:17 PM

    The point was about gathering surfing data which chrome does. IE doesnt use web surfing data for suggestions while chrome does

    • Bradley Wint – April 5th, 2010 – 8:29 PM

      Chrome doesn’t gather data for suggestions either, Google does…

  • – April 5th, 2010 – 11:21 PM

    Chrome doesn’t gather surfing data.