The auto-suggest feature of Google's new Chrome browser does more than just help users get where they are going. It will also give Google a wealth of information on what people are doing on the Internet besides searching.
Provided that users leave Chrome's auto-suggest feature on and have Google as their default search provider, Google will have access to any keystrokes that are typed into the browser's Omnibox, even before a user hits enter.
What's more, Google has every intention of retaining some of that data even after it provides the promised suggestions. A Google representative told CNET News that the company plans to store about 2 percent of that data--and plans to store it along with the Internet Protocol address of the computer that typed it.
In theory, that means that if one were to type the address of a site--even if they decide not to hit enter--they could leave incriminating evidence on Google's servers.
That said, individuals have a clear way to use Chrome and avoid having this occur. Turning off the auto-suggest feature means that Google will neither get nor store this information. One can also select a search provider other than Google as their default to avoid having their search queries stored by Google. (Update 11:45 a.m. PDT: Switching to Chrome's Incognito mode also switches off the auto-suggest features, the Google representative said.)
Beyond the individual level, though, there is the question of what Google will be able to do with all this information in aggregate. Folks already concerned about how much data Google has from its Web search history may well have another reason to worry. That is in addition to separate concerns raised by the product's End User License Agreement (EULA).
Assuming Google finds a way to use this data to make its Web search even better, it could also make Microsoft's job of catch-up even harder than it already is.
As I wrote before, Chrome's threat to Microsoft goes far beyond Internet Explorer. It puts pressure on the Windows team to innovate faster and, apparently, could also make life even tougher for the Live Search folks.