Study Suggests That Google Toolbar Transfers Data Even In Disabled State
Update: The Google Toolbar is only available for Internet Explorer 6 and up on Windows. Google has retired all other versions of the toolbar.
The Google Toolbar is a web browser add-on that is currently available for Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer.
The toolbar is an official Google application that provides quick access to several Google services and features like translating web pages or sharing websites with friends.
Everyone knows that the Google Toolbar transfers data to Google servers when it is active as some features like displaying the Pagerank require data transfers so that the information can be displayed to the user.
Benjamin Edelman, an assistant professor at the Harvard Business School, recently analyzed the toolbar behavior both in enabled and disabled state and came to some astonishing results.
The Google Toolbar can be disabled easily by clicking on the x in the toolbar. This displays an option to disable the toolbar for the active window or completely. Both deactivation options hide the toolbar from the web browser's interface but don't stop the data transmission to Google servers according to Edelman.
Several short screencasts of the findings were created by Mr. Edelman which are linked in the article describing that privacy issue.
We conducted a test with Microsoft's Internet Explorer and the Google Toolbar and did not come to the same conclusion. No data was submitted to Google servers after deactivating the toolbar.
It is not clear why data was transferred in Mr. Edelman's study and no data was transferred in our own. It would be nice if some of you would test the findings so that we can collect more data and come to a conclusion.
We have used a trial version of HTTP Debugger for the test with Google's Toolbar and Microsoft Internet Explorer 8.Advertisement