Chrome: A Touch of Evil?

"Don't be evil."

Much as I admire Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) motto, it's days like these that I wonder if it's unsustainable. Maybe even stupid.

Witness the Omnibox. Found in the new Chrome browser, it's the thin window where you insert a URL or search term. To you and I, it's plain vanilla; precisely what we expect in a browser. But for Google, well, that's a different story.

As Ina Fried over at News.com reports, "Provided that users leave Chrome's auto-suggest feature on and have Google as their default search provider, Google will have access to any keystrokes that are typed into the browser's Omnibox, even before a user hits enter." [Emphasis added.]

Whoa. (That's Google for "dude.")

Auto-suggest is as it sounds, a digital butler that attempts to foresee your every need. But the implication of such wet-nurse treatment is that Google would know you better than your wife or kids. Maybe even your mom.

Funnier (or creepier) still: This isn't new. Remember GDrive, the rumored don't-worry-we-won't-peek unlimited storage service that never was? Omnibox has similar implications.

That's the danger. The opportunity? Data. Tons and tons of data. DoubleGoo is the best there is at using data to make ads more relevant. Just ask Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) . Or Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) . Or IAC's (Nasdaq: IACI  ) Ask.com. Or Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) AOL. Not one of them has successfully challenged DoubleGoo in this area. And that's before the arrival of this blunt instrument we know as Omnibox.

So Google is positioned to win. But market leadership is a privilege, not a right; Google will lose its pole position if it fails to cater to privacy concerns.

Want more of my data, sirs? Fine, give me an AdSense account. Pay me when an advertiser pays you for data about me. You get access to my brain; I get a fatter wallet. A fair trade, wouldn't you say?

Get your clicks with related Foolishness:

Fool contributor Tim Beyers had positions in Google's shares and 2010 LEAP options at the time of publication. He also hunts for the best of tech as a contributor to Motley Fool Rule Breakers, which counts Google among its core holdings. Here's how to try this market-beating service free for 30 days.

Time Warner is a Stock Advisor selection. Microsoft is an Inside Value pick. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is like silver; it outshines chrome.


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