Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Google under fire over autolinking (ZDNet UK News)

“When web surfers install the toolbar in their Microsoft Internet Explorer web browser and click the AutoLink button, web pages with street addresses suddenly sprout links to Google's map service by default. Book publishers' ISBN numbers trigger links to, potentially luring shoppers away from competing book sellers. Vehicle ID licences spawn links to, while package tracking numbers connect automatically to shippers' websites.”

“Nevertheless, some critics charge that AutoLink takes the liberty of modifying web pages to direct people the way Google sees fit. Microsoft took the same approach with its Smart Tags feature years ago and eventually pulled it because of trust and trademark concerns.”

“Richard Purcell, former chief privacy officer at Microsoft, who's now CEO of Corporate Privacy Group, said: "If I'm on Company A's website, and a third party is allowing me to direct me to Company B, there will be some controversy over who controls whose information."

“Google's director of web products, Marissa Mayer, said her team had a healthy debate about how the feature would work before it was implemented. She said the group didn't consider comparisons with Microsoft's pulled Smart Tags feature. But she said that AutoLink was designed to ensure people remain in control.”