If you take a close look at almost all the free services offered by Google, it is apparent that nothing is truly free because in exchange for a no-cost service you are providing Google with data that they use to analyze behaviors on the web. On top of that, Google’s Terms of Service (TOS) agreement, which everyone automatically opts into, gives them the right to use any data collected in any way that they wish from all Google services. Under the TOS, Google has no obligation to inform users when or how they are using that data.
Chrome is Google’s free web browser. Chrome is much faster than other browsers because it strips out many of the bells and whistles found on other browsers and uses a more efficient underlying software engine. There is, however, growing evidence that Chrome may actually be used for more than just a browser. It is likely that it is also used to gather information about web pages that users visit.
Chrome currently has over 300 million active users, which makes it the number one browser in use today. As of December of 2012, they may have as much as a 46.9% market share. That market share is rapidly growing.
So why would I think that Google is using Chrome to gather web information? That is because I’m seeing lots of evidence of this. Many SEO professionals are speculating that Google may be secretly gathering information through Chrome. For many years SEO professionals have believed that Google was gathering information through the use of their Google Toolbar browser plugin. We frequently found pages in Google’s index that have no links leading to those pages or are in password protected areas where the normal GoogleBot spider would not normally have access. In other words, there should not be any way for Google’s GoogleBot spider to find those pages. We are seeing the same phenomenon now when we are not using the Google Toolbar. The common thread appears to be the use of the Chrome browser.
When you think about it, secretly using Chrome to gather information about new web sites and new web pages is probably much more efficient than the use of a spider. Spiders depend upon links to find other web pages. Without links, a part of the web is theoretically invisible to them. What is disturbing about the thought of using Chrome to find more web pages is the fact that sometimes web site owners do not want web users to find certain pages due to the confidentiality of the information in some web pages or areas that are behind password protected sections of a web site. What is more disturbing is the fact that many of the page URLs that I am seeing in Google’ index are pages that are blocked in the site’s robots.txt file, which according to Google’s guidelines should not be showing up in their index.
I raise this issue simply because there may be some clandestine activity occurring with the use of Chrome that users need to be aware of when they use that browser. Is Google doing anything more than possibly gathering information about web pages? No one but Google knows for sure.