German Official Warns Against New Google Browser | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 09.09.2008
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German Official Warns Against New Google Browser

In a newspaper interview a spokesman for Germany's Federal Office for Information Security spoke of potential risks in using Google's new "Chrome" browser in its current beta version, sparking a debate in Germany.

A screenshot of Google Chrome

The introduction of Google Chrome has been long anticipated

A debate over data protection has begun in Germany just one week after the introduction of Google's new browser.

A Berlin newspaper quoted a spokesman for the Federal Office of Information Matthias Gaertner at the weekend saying that the Chrome browser "should not be used for general use."

Since then there have been reports that the Federal Office for Information Security has issued an official warning against using the new Google browser. But on Monday Sep. 8 Gaertner told the AP news agency that his comments had been taken out of context.

Security experts are concerned the Chrome browser uses a number for each user that is set up during installation and then communicated to a central server every time the product is in use for the purpose of collecting usage statistics such as details of program crashes. Critics are concerned that the number could be used to identify users.

Google rejects security concerns

But Kay Oberbeck, speaking for Google, told the dpa news agency: "There are no connections made between the installation number and the entries in the search box or address box."

The system of attributing a number to each user is not particular to this new Google product. Mozilla, the browser of the non-commercial Firefox brand, also sends a user number the software company's server.

Another concern about the product is that it collects data from users for use in functions such as the "omnibox" which remembers the topics of previous searches and suggests possible search topics.

Google confirms that it saves two percent of data, including users IP addresses. "This data is necessary to generate the completed search suggestions," Oberbeck explained.

Oberbeck also stressed that user information is gathered in a way that makes the users anonymous, and he said that the function can be turned off simply.

Critics have also said that, in releasing a test version of the product, Google has given users a false sense of security.

"Google should have clearly told its users that this is a Beta version meant for testing," Daniel Bachfeld of the German "C'T" computer magazine told dpa news agency.

Spokesman for Google Germany Stefan Keuchel said that the beta version was released because it allows for more flexibility in finding bugs, fixing glitches and addressing feedback from users.

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