We almost had another small riot over the EULA Google uses for its Chrome web browser. On Slashdot, the editors posted an anonymous submission that questioned Google’s policies as defined in the EULA used by Chrome. Slashdot readers quickly corrected the wrong assumptions by the anonymous poster, and Google jumped in on its corporate blog to clarify the “issue”.
The anonymous poster was afraid that Chrome’s EULA posed severe limitations on its users. “Does this mean that Google reserves the right to filter my web browsing experience in Chrome (without my consent to boot)? Is this a carry-over from the EULAs of Google’s other services (gmail, blogger etc), or is this something more significant?” He based his conclusion on the following section of Chrome’s EULA:
Google reserves the right (but shall have no obligation) to pre-screen, review, flag, filter, modify, refuse or remove any or all Content from any Service. For some of the Services, Google may provide tools to filter out explicit sexual content. These tools include the SafeSearch preference settings (see google.com/help/customize.html#safe). In addition, there are commercially available services and software to limit access to material that you may find objectionable.
Slashdot posters were quick to point out that this is simply a part of Google’s default Terms Of Service, that it uses for all its services and products. It turns out they were right, as Google’s Gabriel Stricker explained. “This is the exact same language we use in many other Google Terms of Service. We are trying to be consistent across all of our products and services, hence the uniformity.”
Stricker further explains the part about the filtering aspect. “Google provides features such as Safe Browsing that warn you if you are about to go to a suspected phishing site, and we verify the URL you are planning to go to with a database of known phishing sites. Other relevant factors include the need for Google to comply with the law relating to your web-browsing experience, such as regulations against hate speech, child pornography and so on.”
If all this still bothers you, Slashdot poster “acb” noted, then there’s an easy way around it all: Chrome is open source, so you can always use one of the open source Chromium builds that are unrelated to Google. â€œIn any case, it’s open source (under the name Chromium), so if you don’t like Google’s EULA, or any other part of their plans for Chrome, you will be able to download and run one of the third-party, de-Googlised builds of Chromium, or even build your own,” acd writes, “It seems unlikely that Google would impose particularly unpalatable terms on Chrome, given that it comes with its own competition built in.â€
Considering the opening line of the Slashdot story, it’s hard to escape the feeling that we’re dealing with plain old FUD here. This is the second time in a short period that Slashdot enabled the easy spreading of FUD.