back to article Feds asked to probe Google's leaky search terms

The FTC is considering a complaint that Google conceals the fact that users' search terms are handed over to the websites they visit. Christopher Soghoian, a well-known privacy campaigner and former FTC employee, charges that the dominant search engine's privacy policy does not explain that referral headers - which include …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Less interested in his views on Google...

    than on his views on Abine.

  2. Dusty Wilson


    Google isn't doing it. Your browser sends a referrer header to the target site. This is true for all websites. Silly humans.

  3. Tom 38

    Google dont pass the search terms to the website

    They are passed by the user's browser, a process fully under control of the user. If the user doesn't want to leak information about the page they just visited, they can turn off referer header sending in their browser.

  4. Ben Tasker


    As others have said, it isn't Google it's the browser.

    OK, Google could use POST rather than GET so that the search term wouldn't appear in the URI.

    Perhaps someone should warn this guy that every site he clicks a link on tells the new site where he came from. In his world, that must constitute stalking!!!!

    What an annoying, attention grabbing tit

  5. Anonymous Coward

    erm refControl?

    As I'm sure others will point out, there's the refControl add-on for Firefox that allows users to easily adjust what referer info gets sent on a domain by domain basis if necessary. Or you could use Privoxy or use a different search engine (ixquick, scroogle, duckduckgo etc).. well you get the idea.

  6. Colin Millar

    And his point is?

    Who is going to be going through referer (sic) headers for PI when there is a million other ways to get more and better info.

    I think this guy works for a specially trained Google squad who raise spurious non-issues to distract people while Google nip round the back and nick all your spoons.

  7. rmacd

    No shit sherlock

    What a dipshit.

    You'd have thought after what... 15 years? ... people'd have picked up the nature of the referer header? Common knowledge?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      At least the dipshit can spell

      You'd think after 15 years you'd be able to spell "referrer" correctly.

      1. Tom 38


        Nothing like incorrect pedantry.. due to typos in the original spec written by Phillip Hallam-Baker and promulgation of said typo, that header is (correctly) the 'referer' header.

        When it was spotted, no-one cared enough to fix it, and it was decide to blame the french:

  8. crayon
    Big Brother

    Read before commenting

    Read the actual complaint (conveniently linked to in the article) before commenting. The complainant "is a Washington, DC based Graduate Fellow at the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research at Indiana University, and a Ph.D. Candidate in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University." and he does mention how to get the major browsers to stop sending the http referrer info (in this case "major browsers" does NOT include IE and Safari).

    More interesting is:

    "For more than ten years, Google has tracked the links that users click on from the search results page. During the search engine’s first few years, this was done by redirecting all clicks from the search engine results page through a script on Google’s servers, before then redirecting the users’ browser to the server hosting the content they actually wished to view."

    That's something that's news to me. I stopped using Yahoo way back when they started obscuring the search results making you click on yahoo links which then redirect you to the target website. Anyway before I started using Firefox and the refcontrol addon I had always copy+paste the cleartext links that Google provide in their results - which is a good thing if the above claim is true.

  9. Steven Knox

    Who's lying?

    "Google users trust that when they enter a search query into a Google search box, not only will they receive back the most relevant results, but that Google will keep private whatever information users communicate absent a compelling reason," the firm claimed to court.

    Most Google users I know trust very little about the search engine, and certainly not those two items.

  10. Chris Hatfield

    Are you fucking kidding me?

    As many others have said browsers pass on referrrer info! Also happens with Yahoo, Bing etc.

    Sorry for strong language, but the guy is a moron! It's been like this for decades.

    Work arounds:

    - use Google secure i.e.

    - turn of referring (For instructions, Google for a simple tutorial on how to do it in Firefox - it takes like 2 mins)

    - Copy and paste the URL

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