If Google is the Borg, Google Toolbar is the Terminator: just when you think you've killed it, it keeps comes back to murderise the Sarah Conner that is your privacy. What a creepy move. Updated with response from Google.
Ben Edelman ran a few tests with the Google Toolbar, and found that, yes, Google keeps tracking your browsing even after you politely ask it not to. They also make it easy to enable certain tracking features and much more difficult to disable the same.
Edelman also found that Google's disclosures have gotten worse over time, to the point of being downright duplicitous:
* Now, initial Enhanced Features privacy disclosures appear not in their own screen, but in a bubble pitching another feature (Sidewiki). Previously, format (all-caps, top-of-page), colour (red) and language ("... not the usual yada yada") alerted users to the seriousness of the decision at hand.
* Now, Google presents Enhanced Features as a default with an oversized button, bold type, and acceptance via a single keystroke. Previously, neither option was a default, and both options were presented with equal prominence.
* Now, privacy statements are imprecise and internally-inconsistent, muddling the concepts of site and URL. Previous disclosures were clear in explaining that acceptance entails "sending us [Google]the URL" of each page a user visits.
* The current feature name, "Enhanced Features," is less forthright than the prior "Advanced Features" label. The name "Advanced Features" appropriately indicated that the feature is not appropriate for all users (but is intended for, e.g., "advanced" users). In contrast, the current "Enhanced Features" name suggests that the feature is an "enhancement" suitable for everyone.
So hey, Google, way to go on China and everything, but could we get a little more privacy protection at home?
Update: A Google spokesperson has provided the following clarifying statement:
"To be clear, this is only an issue until a user restarts the browser, and it only affects the currently open tabs for a small number of users.
Specifically it affects those using Google Toolbar versions 6.3.911.1819 through 6.4.1311.42 in Internet Explorer, with enhanced features enabled, who chose to disable Toolbar without uninstalling it. Once the user restarts the browser, the issue is no longer present. A fix that doesn't require a browser restart is now available on www.google.com/toolbar and in an automatic update to Google Toolbar that we are starting today."
Glad to hear that the problem was small in scope and that it's being addressed, though still disheartening to know that it was ever an issue in the first place.