[Greasemonkey] Google question

Michael Bierman greasemonkey at thebiermans.net
Mon Aug 22 16:35:54 EDT 2005


Has anyone seen this blog entry  <http://mboffin.com/post.aspx?id=1830>
http://mboffin.com/post.aspx?id=1830 about what Google is doing to their links?


 

Sounds like great time for a userscript.  Comments? 

 

>From BoingBoinng:

 

Cory Doctorow: There's some very subtle clickthrough tracking going on at
Google. Just before you click on a link on a search-results page, at the "on
mousedown" event, Google rewrites the links in its search results with a long
redirector URL that is presumably being used to track which search results are
being selected most often. 

For example, the first search result for
<http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&safe=off&c2coff=1&q=Boing+Boing&btnG=Sea
rch> a Google search for Boing Boing is listed as "boingboing.net/". If you
hover your mouse over the link on the results page, the status-bar in your
browser displays the link URL as "http://boingboing.net". However, if you
right-click on the link and copy the link location, it is revealed to actually
be "http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&ct=res&cd=1&
url=http%3A//boingboing.net/&ei=U4gJQ6_fBqKiQevXjYIO" (it will probably be a
slightly different URL for you). 

I have no doubt that most of Google's intended uses for this are beneficial to
Google users. For example, Google can use this to refine its search results
based on which links Google users click most often. 

However, there is a grave privacy implication here, especially when coupled with
Google's never-expiring cookie: this new (?) practice means that Google now has
a record not just of all the searches you performed, but potentially of all the
links you've clicked through on its site. 

It may be that Google is simply tracking click-throughs and not associating them
with users, but it sure doesn't look like it. Look at the letter-salad at the
end of the real URL there: "U4gJQ6_fBqKiQevXjYIO". That looks like a unique
identifier to me -- if all Google cares about is which result is most popular
with searchers, there'd be no reason to uniquely identify each click. 

At the end of the day, the thing about this that bugs me is that it is stealthy
and non-transparent to the user. If my search-engine is collecting info on every
click I make on its site, I want to know that. Further, I want to know what it's
doing with that information. 

I hope Google will release more info on this today.
<http://mboffin.com/post.aspx?id=1830> Link (Thanks,  <http://mboffin.com>
Dylan!)

 <http://www.boingboing.net/2005/08/22/google_stealthily_mo.html> Read more

 

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