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Google web accelerator (GWA) – part II

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In my last blog I wrote about Google Web Accelerator (GWA), but I also mentioned about some lesser known adverse effects. Here's a short summary.

GWA is in effect a proxy client drawing from the vast Google cache content. This means that when you visit a site, in addition to your ISP, Google will also know about it, even if it doesn't supply the content from its cache. If you already have the Google toolbar installed, chances are Google is already collecting the information. The difference however is that with a decent network analyzer you could see what information is sent back to Google via the toolbar. With GWA, you can never be sure what is being collected since data is being supplied through Google itself.

Web operators are already having a hard time collecting data on their visitors. With paranoid users blocking cookies, disabling scripts and images, and cloaking browsers, now their IP addresses will also be masked by those of Google's. For some users, being IP-anonymized is a boon, but if you are a Web operator who depends on visitor's IP addresses for Web analytics, banned and private lists, site troubleshooting, or culture detection, life just became a whole lot more complicated.

To see what I mean, visit the Whoami page on my personal site with GWA turned on and then turned off and note the differences in the information presented.

Finally, will Google ever use GWA as a censorship or subjugation tool, displaying content based on its discretion? Google already wields so much power that many sites fear being banned from its index. Just imagine how much more anxiety they would have, if their site won't even load because GWA might decide to dump them and provide a 404 page instead. This is an unlikely and alarmist scenario of course, but it is certainly not beyond the realm of possibility.

If GWA is ever released as a finished product, it has the potential of becoming as popular as Google's toolbar. Only time will tell whether its benefits outweigh the risks.

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