Google Chrome: If Google Isn’t Evil, Can Their Lawyers Be?

September 3, 2008 at 9:44 am | Posted in Browsers, Google | 2 Comments

When you’re the big guy, it doesn’t take long for people to try taking you down.  I recognize that Chrome is in beta, so expect some issues like the carpet-bombing flaw it inherited by using an old version of WebKit.  Or that some pages (even from Google’s own services) don’t render correctly or consistently.  Hopefully Google quickly addresses these issues, which isn’t a given since they are the inventors of the “perpetual beta”.

But I would expect the lawyers would have their act together.  And, being a non-evil company, they would err on the side of giving away too many rights rather than storing them up for potential future use.  Putting beta-like technical glitches aside, here are four issues from the blogosphere that stick with me as longer term concerns:

1. The Register points out that in section 11 (Content license from you) Google’s ELUA states that I still own my content, but they can reproduce it. I’m no lawyer, but that could be fishy.  Here’s the clause (emphasis added):

11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

2. CNet also mentions the content licensing clause, and adds that a door is left open to targeted ads based on your browsing history, searches, and information.

17.1 Some of the Services are supported by advertising revenue and may display advertisements and promotions. These advertisements may be targeted to the content of information stored on the Services, queries made through the Services or other information.

17.2 The manner, mode and extent of advertising by Google on the Services are subject to change without specific notice to you.

3. Some have attacked Chrome’s privacy characteristics.  InsideBayArea (among many others) notes the strange contradiction in adding the “incognito mode” to protect your privacy, but also adding a unique id buried in each browser as described in Google’s privacy notice for Chrome

Your copy of Google Chrome includes one or more unique application numbers. These numbers and information about your installation of the browser (e.g., version number, language) will be sent to Google when you first install and use it and when Google Chrome automatically checks for updates.  If you choose to send usage statistics and crash reports to Google, the browser will send us this information along with a unique application number as well.

4. InformationWeek points out, even the Incognito mode doesn’t hide web log information from the web servers.


So far, none of these issues mean something nefarious is happening or will definitely happen in the future.  But they could be used against users in the future. I would expect a non-evil company to refrain from stockpiling weapons (legal disclaimers in this case), not to just refrain from using them.


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