I don't envy Google these days. (Other than for the fact that they net a billion dollars in the first quarter of '07.) Many of their incredibly popular services depend upon knowing their users and in many cases being knowing them on a one-on-one basis. Because their slice of the web is growing, there are concerns out there that the aggregated databases of user information may be misused.
One of the newest services will probably be the most controversial: Google Web History tracks all your surfing and all your searches. You can easily go back to that website you visited two weeks ago but forgot the address, and you can analyze the trends in your browsing. That's a convenience. At the same time, every website you've visited and each search you've done will be very strongly linked to you and will be hosted in the United States. This means that it will be available to be handed over to law enforcement under the USA Patriot Act and other statutes. It may also be available to your spouse's divorce lawyer armed with a subpoena. Or is just there to be hacked into.
This may be very convenient and appealing for a lot of users, but people need to think carefully about the risks of having someone else host this highly personal data ....
Official Google Blog: Your slice of the web
Your slice of the web
Thursday, April 19, 2007 at 4:23:00 PM
Posted by Payam Shodjai, Product Manager for Personalization
I'll probably visit more than 100 web pages today, and so will hundreds of millions of people. Printed and bound together, the web pages you'll visit in just one day are probably bigger than the book sitting on your night table. Over the next month alone, that's an entire bookcase full! The idea of having access to this virtual library of information has always fascinated me. Imagine being able to search over the full text of pages you've visited online and finding that one particular quote you remember reading somewhere months ago. Imagine always knowing exactly where you saw something online, like that priceless YouTube video of your friend attempting to perform dance moves from a bygone age. Better yet, imagine having this wealth of information work for you to make searching for new information easier and faster.
Today, we're pleased to announce the launch of Web History, a new feature for Google Account users that makes it easy to view and search across the pages you've visited. If you remember seeing something online, you'll be able to find it faster and from any computer with Web History. Web History lets you look back in time, revisit the sites you've browsed, and search over the full text of pages you've seen. It's your slice of the web, at your fingertips.
How does Web History work? All you need is a Google Account and the Google Toolbar with PageRank enabled. The Toolbar, as part of your browser, helps us associate the pages you visit with your Google Account. If you're currently a Search History user, you'll notice that we've renamed Search History to Web History to reflect this new functionality. To sign up for Web History, visit http://www.google.com/history.