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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

GoogleSharing: A way to prevent tracking by Google | IT Security |

A security expert is taking on Google. His innovative Firefox add-on prevents Google from tracking your whereabouts on the Internet.


Any security pundit worth their salt knows about Moxie Marlinspike. You may remember Marlinspike getting a lot of attention during the 2009 BlackHat convention, where he explained a new SSL attack vector.

Matter of privacy

Recently, Marlinspike turned his attention to a different subject. It seems he did not like what Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google said in an interview:

“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

For more details about the interview, refer to Chad Perrin’s post: Google: Being evil. For whatever reason, Schmidt felt like bringing the privacy issue to the forefront. To those not familiar, it’s all about what information Google captures, retains, and how they control it. To start, here is a partial list of information Google stockpiles, if you use their services:

  • Directions to places that you query Google Maps for.
  • Using Analytics, Google receives/retains information on visited Web sites.
  • Gmail membership allows Google to retain the content of sent and received e-mail messages.
  • Enabling My Location, enables Google to track your position real-time.
  • If Public DNS is used, Google can retain your DNS lookups.

I realize many people are not apprehensive about Google retaining all this information. Still, others are concerned. Especially with Google’s “trust me” attitude. Remember what Eric Schmidt said during this Charlie Rose interview. Either way, it’s important to know what’s going on and what can be done about it if so desired.


GoogleSharing is Marlinspike’s answer. It could be construed as yet another anonymizing proxy service, but that’s not quite true. Proxies like Tor provide strong anonymity for all Internet communication. But, they are not the best option in this situation, because:

  • A proxy will hide the user’s IP address, but not anonymize personal information in HTTP headers.
  • Proxy applications are bandwidth hogs, slow enough to frustrate users into not using them.

GoogleSharing’s only purpose is to anonymize personal information, preventing Google from tracking movement on the Internet. Bandwidth is not an issue either, since GoogleSharing only deals with traffic being sent to Google.


GoogleSharing intermingles Google user requests. Doing so complicates making any association between the query and the requester’s personal information. The GoogleSharing Web site explains what the service accomplishes:

  • Provide a system that will prevent Google from collecting information about you from services which don’t require a login.

  • Make this system completely transparent to the user. No special websites, no change to your work flow.

  • Leave your non-Google traffic completely untouched, un-redirected, and unaffected.

How it works

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