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Google Toolbar Tracks Your Movements

Posted by on Feb 4, 2010

Do you have Google Toolbar installed on your browser? I do, and I have to admit that I find it as a convenience in two ways. One, I know I can click on the Google button and it’ll pull up the Google search page. Two, I also use Google Desktop, and the icon for it sits on the toolbar, easy to find.

One thing I’ve rarely done, however, is type my search term into the little box next to the button. I almost never think about it sitting there. What’s funny is that, as I look up there now, I see the search terms I typed into the actual Google window the last time I was there waiting for me, as if I’m going to type them in again. That’s a quick way to search for something; I wonder why I have rarely used it.

Turns out there might have been a good reason not to do it, and I was just lucky. It seems that every time you put a search term into that little window and click the button, you’re sending information to Google telling them what you’re searching for. They in turn use that information to try to target ads specifically to you based on where you live and what you’ve been searching for. They store this information away, waiting for the next time you use it so they can do more calculations, trying to figure you out.

It seems this has been written about often enough, but I’ve always missed it. The last article I saw comes from Mashable, where they found that even if you disable the tracking part of the toolbar it still continues to track your movements.

Of course, you can look at that and gripe, or you can decide to gripe about the issue of Adsense reducing its payments from 75% to 72% to its publishers, of which most of us are. Man, working on getting our money coming or going; how fair is that?

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32 Comments »

Ack! Get rid of it. It will also slow down your computer as it indexes your entire hard drive so you may find things faster. People where I work often complain about there PCs being slow. 8 out of 10 times, Google toolbar or another toolbar got installed on their browser. Today’s browser’s have included a search box and work just as well without all the mess of a third party toolbar.
.-= Scott Thomas´s last blog ..White Calm =-.

February 4th, 2010 | 11:29 AM
Mitch:

Actually, it’s not the toolbar that slows things down. Google Desktop is known to slow things down, but remember that I have 6GB of DDR3 running this sucker; I have no problems whatsoever. That, plus I hate the search function on Vista, which I’m still stuck with, and I always loved Google Desktop before.

I just don’t like that the toolbar tracks you and markets to you based on this accumulation of information.

February 4th, 2010 | 1:34 PM

I haven’t used Google toolbar for years, but I had no idea it would track you like that. I guess they’ll do “anything” to get as much information as possible.

And they lowered adsense from 75% to 72%? I had no idea! (Well, it’s no big deal when I’m making less than $10 a month anyway, but it’s still not very good news).
.-= Klaus @ TechPatio´s last blog ..Funny Pictures: Google Street View Launched In Denmark =-.

February 4th, 2010 | 4:47 PM
Mitch:

The Toolbar is the thing that’s bothered me, as it seems it’s been known by some people for awhile now. I’ve never thought about it before now. I’m hoping Desktop doesn’t do the same thing, since it also has an option to get out of it, which I selected, but now I’m wondering if they’re spying on me anyway.

February 4th, 2010 | 10:12 PM

Interesting. Imagine what they are getting from all those Chrome users, including myself.
.-= Sire´s last blog ..Necessity The Mother Of Invention And How It Relates To Blogs =-.

February 5th, 2010 | 2:48 AM
Mitch:

I didn’t know you were using Chrome, Sire. Yeah, they probably know everything about you. Any skeletons in your closet you want to reveal to us now? lol

February 5th, 2010 | 4:48 PM

Nope. I switched to Chrome when firefox started slowing down some. May have another look though to see if things have changed because I miss all the add ons.
.-= Sire´s last blog ..Necessity The Mother Of Invention And How It Relates To Blogs =-.

February 5th, 2010 | 5:59 PM
Mitch:

I have to admit that I’ve never seen a slow down, Sire. Then again, I am running 6GB DDR3 Ram on this sucker. 😉

February 5th, 2010 | 7:08 PM

Show off! 😀
.-= Sire´s last blog ..Necessity The Mother Of Invention And How It Relates To Blogs =-.

February 5th, 2010 | 8:23 PM
Mitch:

My only chance to be the man for a little while, Sire. lol

February 5th, 2010 | 10:30 PM
Leo Dimilo:

I have known that Google tracks everything but it doesn’t really bother me. And to be real honest, I am a lot of like Sire. I use chrome as well and personally don’t care what google collects….the way I figure it is that they will use the information to make search better.
.-= Leo Dimilo´s last blog ..Online Marketing is Not Just about Making Money Online =-.

February 5th, 2010 | 11:06 AM
Mitch:

I care greatly about being tracked without my knowledge. Then again, I come from a generation where the government actually got away with tracking for decades before there were more open policies to find out what they had on you. It’s the sneakiness factor that irks me more than anything else.

February 5th, 2010 | 4:49 PM

Is that why I keep getting all those Viagra ads? 🙂

I think it all comes down to how comfortable you are about sharing your ‘searching’ information, some people don’t mind where others feel their online activities should remain a private act.

Karl
.-= Karl Foxley´s last blog ..Who Else Wants More Traffic And Backlinks? =-.

February 5th, 2010 | 12:28 PM
Mitch:

I feel it’s private, Karl, and look at the outcry on Facebook when they went that way. Thing is, it was never announced that Google was doing it, though they also didn’t quite go out of their way to hide it either. However, if you opt out, then you should be opted out, period.

February 5th, 2010 | 4:51 PM

I totally agree Mitch, if you opt-out you should be out completely.

I read a brilliant post about Google stealing site traffic as well, you may find it interesting Mitch, http://www.wolf-howl.com/seo/google-hijackingtraffic/ . Would love to hear your view on this?
.-= Karl Foxley´s last blog ..Guest Blogging For Fresh Content And Optimised Backlinks =-.

February 5th, 2010 | 6:20 PM
Mitch:

Well, I have to admit that I’ve never thought about that before, Karl. I mean, the site comes up in the number one position, doesn’t t? However, a part of me is thinking that website doesn’t need the person going or the traffic because the person already knew where they were going in all those examples. Most of us want to use keywords to drive people to our sites so they can figure out what we do. If I already know the name Joe’s Steakhouse, truthfully I don’t need to go to the site if I can get the information on the search page already. I don’t have a major problem with this, I must say, unless someone went looking for the search term “Long Island Steakhouse” and it brought up his example and the hours; they I might gripe about it.

February 5th, 2010 | 7:14 PM

I’m not a fan of any toolbars. I do have SU installed, but that’s it.
.-= Rose´s last blog ..BloggerTalk Accepting Guest Posts =-.

February 5th, 2010 | 3:12 PM
Mitch:

I have to admit that I hate going to sites that have that big bar sitting up there, or at the bottom, because it takes away from the reading space. I will just close them, though.

February 5th, 2010 | 4:59 PM
JC:

It doesn’t matter what you use, you’re going to be tracked one way or another. Google is getting user personalized search results for people that aren’t even logged into their google accounts. That means they’re tracking what you go to whether you are logged in or not, whether you have any of their software or not. I assume it goes beyone just having cookies on the pc’s and actually track search by ip addresses.

I want your computer, would love to have something that is new enough to run ddr3, especially 6 gigs of it.

February 5th, 2010 | 6:05 PM
Mitch:

JC, just get ready to spend a lot of money. Actually, I’m wishing I’d spent the extra $750 for all the bells and whistles, but I’m happy with what I have; well, except for Vista.

February 5th, 2010 | 7:09 PM
JC:

I never had any issues with Vista. I tried Windows 7 in beta and not a fan of the new taskbar at all.

I drool over the new i7 processors that are out. Last year I wanted to get back into 3d animation and priced out parts, would cost me nearly 2 grand for a pc to start with that I’d want to upgrade parts when I could.

My laptop wasn’t up for the animation and right now I only have one usb plug that works. Unfortunately it is soldered onto the motherboard and can not easily replace or fix them.

I wish I could get a new pc, even a basic one but I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

What kind of bells and whistles do you want? 6 Gigs of ram is usually overkill.

February 5th, 2010 | 11:08 PM
Mitch:

Ah JC, to dare to dream. My dream machine is a Falcon Northwest Mach V with 12GB 1333 MHz DDR3 RAM, 1000 watt power supply, EVGA X58 XLA motherboard, Core i7 Extreme 975 3.33GHz processor, Radeon R5850 1GB video card, X-fi Titanium Fatal 1ty Pro sound card, 2 1TB drives, an optical Blu-Ray DVD-RW drive and a regular 22x DVD drive, all running on Win 7 Pro. Price around $5,400.00. How’s that for dreaming big? Overkill; I eat overkill as a snack! lol

February 5th, 2010 | 11:23 PM
JC:

Ouch. I assume that would be the 64 bit operating system to be able to use that crazy amount of ram.

One of the Core i7’s is on sale at tigerdirect today. I’m not sure which one it was, I’ve already trashed the email.

Planning on setting the hard drives in raid for data redundancy and backup?

What do you use so much power for? I would be happy with an i5 with 4gigs of ram and everything else basic. I just want a large lcd display. I don’t game or animate anymore and just videos and internet and occasional photoshop.

February 7th, 2010 | 5:08 PM
Mitch:

Here’s the thing, JC. For me, power means speed, but it also means if something else comes up that I want to try some day, I’ll have the power to run it. It seems that I’m always right up with technology, then suddenly I’m way behind. If some day I can get way ahead, then technology has to catch up with me. For instance, right now, I have enough power so that I can burn CDs and DVDs and still do other things on my computer without worrying about it slowing down or not having enough resources to finish the job. You saw the comment above from my friend saying how other people’s computers slow down by running Toolbar (though I think he meant Desktop); it’s a problem I’ve never had with this computer.

And yes, it has to be 64-bit, otherwise it wouldn’t handle that much RAM properly. Hey, gotta dream big!

February 7th, 2010 | 5:22 PM

Google reduced its payments? No wonder my AdSense earning getting less and less. 😛
.-= Jayce´s last blog ..How to install Garmin Mobile XT for Windows Mobile Phone? =-.

February 6th, 2010 | 3:00 AM
Mitch:

It might actually explain mine, Jayce. Last summer I was averaging nearly $100 a month with Adsense, and now it’s averaging much lower, yet traffic is still pretty much the same. Has to be somewhere, right?

February 6th, 2010 | 3:04 AM

Mitch,
It’s just not a toolbar issue alone. Anything that you are searching for is being anyhow used by Google for further analytics and research. Basically from what IP, what kind of search terms come in can be easily stored and tracked. And who knows what kind of information is being captured by various browsers and IM tools? On top of that numerous spyware that sits on your puter as well..

Internet helped you in many ways but you don’t exactly have the privacy that you thought you have 🙂
.-= Ajith Edassery´s last blog ..Are you a serious blogger? =-.

February 6th, 2010 | 8:18 AM
Mitch:

You’re right on that, Ajith, but you can also delete your cookies every time you leave so that they’re not continually knowing they’re tracking the same person. And I do delete my Google cookies often, since I use Firefox.

February 6th, 2010 | 2:34 PM

Hi Mitch,

It’s been a long time since I last visited here 🙂 been very busy with some projects.

Anyways, I heard something about this before that google keeps track of what we do. This is something like our privacy is altered by google in anyways.

But well, we can delete the cookies. Nice article Mitch
.-= jp manching @ beginners blogging guide´s last blog ..A Backlink for a Helpful Commentator =-.

February 10th, 2010 | 3:44 AM
Mitch:

JP, good to see you. Yeah, guess we’ve always known Google tracked us in some fashion, but dnoi git do they can market to us seems invasive in some fashion. Makes me think about running my cloaking software 24/7, but that slows down my computer; at least it used to slow down my old computer. I might have to give it a try again. 🙂

February 10th, 2010 | 7:04 PM
td:

Thank you for the information. It seems this has been written about often enough, but I’ve always missed it. The last article I saw comes from Mashable, where they found that even if you disable the tracking part of the toolbar it still continues to track your movements.

June 6th, 2010 | 4:21 PM
Mitch:

That’s why I don’t use the toolbar except to click on it to take me to Google. Well, it also has the Google Desktop icon on it, and I’m not sure I can put it anywhere else.

June 6th, 2010 | 4:38 PM