Tech Blech

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Google tracks clicks on its search links even if browser cookies disabled

Notice the status (lower left) while mousing in a Google search.  The address shown in the status bar is a total lie.

The two links below go to the same place.    I got the first link by selecting "Copy Link Location" over a search result from Bing, and the the second link by selecting "Copy Link Location" over a search result from Google.  


When you click a Google Search result, it takes you first to Google's web service (the longer link below), where Google records what you clicked (and who knows what else about you) before forwarding to the page you actually wanted.

I recommend that everyone switch away from Google search, since there are now good alternatives.

http://nebula.nasa.gov/blog/2011/08/16/white-paper-nebula-action/

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CDMQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fnebula.nasa.gov%2Fblog%2F2011%2F08%2F16%2Fwhite-paper-nebula-action%2F&ei=uUeKUdKFIYjq0QGKmID4AQ&usg=AFQjCNHmbke5CQSlmqcgQuRmTlLIChVu3Q&sig2=nYGdEhP3nma2hoeao1h0oQ&bvm=bv.46226182,d.dmQ&cad=rja


I first noticed this a few months ago while trying to fix up old broken links on some websites, and I only noticed it because the Google web service slowed down during peek hours in the middle of the daytime.  Google has coaxed the browser to show the false, shorter link in the status bar below the browser when you mouse over the longer link (using Javascript, I presume).  It's only a matter of time until they figure out how to make "Copy Link Location" lie to us as well, after which only packet sniffing would be able to catch them in the act.

I really don't understand why the tech community is not raising hell over this--it is yet another invasion into our privacy.  Even running a browser in private browsing mode would not save us from this kind of rigging--which, my guess is, could be why Google did this.  And also to more accurately charge their ad customers for click-throughs.  Either way, I don't like it.   Google's "Don't Be Evil" slogan is beginning to look a little ironic, and I've switched to Bing for the majority of my web searches.  

1 Comments:

  • I've since learned that, if one wanted to keep using Google but remove the redirects, they could use a browser add-on. Here's one for Chrome:
    http://code.google.com/p/undirect/
    Firefox:
    https://addons.mozilla.org/En-us/firefox/addon/google-no-tracking-url/

    By Blogger Pat Palmer, at 6:47 PM  

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