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Google Chrome privacy notice :

When you type URLs or queries in the address bar, the letters you type are sent to Google

Does this mean that Google could know how fast each Chrome user types ? Could be fun to have those numbers.

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Ok, i'm never using chrome... Generally i don't care (as google ads arent everywhere and the ones that are are usally blocked so i don't see them) but, just, shudders –  RCIX Aug 9 '09 at 2:52
    
Don't worry. They're not THAT interested in you :-) –  ldigas Aug 9 '09 at 4:23
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@RCIX: What are you hiding? Who cares if google knows if I get on superuser. –  Lucas McCoy Aug 15 '09 at 4:05
    
@RCIX, Google are concerned with the purity and validity of information. The better they get this right, the better it will be for all of us. –  JL. Sep 29 '09 at 7:05
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10 Answers

up vote 17 down vote accepted

It's very unlikely that each letter is separately sent to Google.

However, I'm sure they know exactly what you had for breakfast, the name of your dog, and how many times you search for your ex each month.

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Makes sense :=) –  Manu Aug 5 '09 at 18:05
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Welcome aboard new mod. This is actually the first time I've seen you "in the wild" up to this point. –  TheTXI Aug 5 '09 at 18:16
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I've left a number of comments and answers so far. Not nearly enough though, it's addicting here! –  The How-To Geek Aug 5 '09 at 18:20
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Maybe not the first two or three characters, but if Chrome uses this for some of Google's auto-suggest features, then I actually think each additional letter will be sent as soon as it is typed. –  Arjan Aug 5 '09 at 18:50
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Google Chrome gets suggestions for me for the first two letters. –  Isaac Waller Dec 18 '09 at 4:17
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Each keystroke is sent to Google (maybe not the first two or three, and maybe only at some interval like Grant suggested), to allow Chrome to display the auto-suggest results. CNET wrote on September 3, 2008 (emphasis is mine):

The auto-suggest feature of Google's new Chrome browser does more than just help users get where they are going. It will also give Google a wealth of information on what people are doing on the Internet besides searching.

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.

What's more, Google has every intention of retaining some of that data even after it provides the promised suggestions. A Google representative told CNET News that the company plans to store about 2 percent of that data--and plans to store it along with the Internet Protocol address of the computer that typed it.

In theory, that means that if one were to type the address of a site--even if they decide not to hit enter--they could leave incriminating evidence on Google's servers.

I guess Google could also determine your typing speed (but I think they won't).

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Each letter is sent to your default search provider for the purposes of finding search suggestions. This is an important distinction because if if you set Bing, Amazon, or something else as your default search provider, they'll get the data instead of Google.

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As others have noted, by only sending suggestion requests after a noted timeout, Google would likely only be able to approximately average your typing speed; which is actually how typing speed is normally reported (words per minute, where word = 5 characters). While this is fun information to have, I doubt Google is as interested in this as the actual content of the omnibar.

You might be able to disable some of this behavior by going to options, "under the hood", and un-checking the Privacy items:

  1. Suggestions for navigation errors
  2. Address bar suggestions
  3. DNS pre-fetching
  4. Phishing and malware protection
  5. Usage statistics and crash reports

Or, in a private-browsing window of chrome, you will only get suggestions based on your history.

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With privacy you always have to question motivation. What possible motivation would Google have for monitoring typing speeds?

Profit? Unlikely. And I don't see any non profit public campaigns to improve peoples overall typing speed. Neither do I see any newspaper or online news articles stating "World typing speed in crisis".

Sure its possible for Google to deduct this info, but how accurate would it really be? Even if keystrokes were being statistically measured, they're sent as packets, and because of this due to unpredictable network latency.

I applaud your creative thinking, people like you help technology progress...

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It would make it very easy to explain to people why not to blindly trust in Google's "Don't Do Evil". Most will understand that it would make no sense for Google to determine your typing speed. But if Google is known to gather enough information to even determine that typing speed if it would bring them profit, then people would understand that Google's greed for information might be a bit (?) excessive. (Like did you know that Google Analytics collects --and sets-- first party cookies? So: not only their own cookies, but also those of the sites that are using Analytics? Why, I ask.) –  Arjan Sep 29 '09 at 7:26
    
(And, like quoted in my answer: Google has every intention of retaining some of that data even after it provides the promised suggestions. A Google representative told CNET News that the company plans to store about 2 percent of that data--and plans to store it along with the Internet Protocol address of the computer that typed it.) –  Arjan Sep 29 '09 at 7:31
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I really think that Chrome sends every letter. If you try, you'll see. Put just one character and some links you never opened appear on your list. I don't think that these links are in the code. I didn't checked it in the source (the code is available here: http://dev.chromium.org/developers).

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Of course the links are not in the code, and surely the keystrokes are sent to Google. Though, like Grant suggested, maybe the keystrokes are only sent after some little timeout, which could imply that a few characters are sent together when you type fast. –  Arjan Aug 6 '09 at 10:21
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One sidenote: beware of accidental copy-pasting. Anything you paste will be delivered through the net (unencrypted maybe?). If you paste a password or a pice of code of yours, it'll land at Google. Hail to the conspiracy theorists! :) –  Vili Aug 7 '09 at 10:54
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If Google really wanted to know data about typing speed, they could wrap the auto-complete capture code in some timing code. This timing data could be sent to Google when the characters are sent for auto-completion info.

If you really wanted to know how exactly what characters Chrome (or other browsers) send to Google, set up a debugging proxy (like Fiddler (win)) or a network traffic analyzer (like Wireshark) and watch as the data go to the Big G.

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If they didn't send each letter separately, they could possibly tell by the size of whatever partial word gets send at whatever interval they send words at.

I'm sure they can figure out a rough estimate of how fast a user types, but I doubt they care, and are unlikely to put any effort into figuring it out.

It wouldn't help them display any relevant ads and the method would be hugely inaccurate. How many times have you stopped typing in the middle of a word and decided to refine what you were searching for, or pause to let Google chrome pull up possible completions?

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The claim that in Google Wave you get real-time typing, that would mean at least they know how fast you type words. Since Google Wave just runs in a browser, you assume Chrome should be able to determine that yes.

Even if they don't get each single keystroke, they can easily calculate an average based on characters and the average time to type sentences or what not.

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I'm sure that if Wave comes out with powerful enough plugin API, someone will write a plugin that shows you your average typing speed over time. –  TomA Aug 19 '09 at 0:11
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They would have to be calculating the keystrokes on the client side and then transmitting them along, but those numbers would change as the average WPM changes with every key stroke you make. I find it hard to believe that they would be transmitting that information.

It could be an interesting idea to play around with the code though.

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