Google is changing the way it handles the unique identifier that accompanies each installation of its Chrome browser.
Google has confirmed with The Reg that the change will be made with the upcoming Chrome 4.1. A 4.1 beta was released earlier this month.
Google's white paper says the token will now be used solely to verify a successful install. "In order to measure the success rate of Google Chrome downloads and installations, a randomly-generated token is included with Google Chrome's installer," it reads. "This token is sent to Google during the installation process to confirm the success of that particular installation."
As it stands, Google lays down the unique identifier in the Chrome installation folder, but it says this is not linked to personal data and that it is merely used to check for updates and report crashes back to the company. It is reassigned each time the browser is updated.
With Chrome 4.1 it will still appear on the user's machine, but it will then be deleted after the initial update. "It's about time," reads a blog post from Mozilla director of community development Asa Dotzler. But he questions why the identifier is laid down in the first place. "But why ship it at all. Is it really that important to track individual users through their first automatic (and silent) update?" he asks.
As Google's white paper explains, the company continues to gather user data through its so-called Omnibox address bar, which suggests urls as users type. You can disable Omnibox or tell it to use another search provider. But by default, it sends what you've typed, your IP address, and certain cookies back to Google - though the company says it logs only a random two per cent of the data.
Google also says that its logs drop the cookies and scrub the last octet of your IP "within at most 24 hours".
The white paper also discusses the data Google collects when the web address you request does not resolve and when the browser updates. The browser also collects various usage statistics and crash reports, but this is turned off by default. ®