Google, Dell in URL redirection 'spyware' flap

Google, Dell in URL redirection 'spyware' flap

Summary: Google has invested heavily in several anti-malware/anti-spyware initiatives but the search engine giant might have a spyware problem of its own.According to David Ulevitch, CEO of OpenDNS, Google's revenue-generating URL error alliance with Dell drops a difficult-to-remove program on computers that straddles the spyware line.

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TOPICS: Google, Dell, Security
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Google has invested heavily in several anti-malware/anti-spyware initiatives but the search engine giant might have a spyware problem of its own.

According to David Ulevitch, CEO of OpenDNS, Google's revenue-generating URL error alliance with Dell drops a difficult-to-remove program on computers that straddles the spyware line.

In a blog entry making the rounds (Techmeme discussion, Danny Sullivan), Ulevitch calls attention to Google's use of a program called "Browser Address Error Redirector" in its alliance with Dell to launch pay-per-click advertising when users mistype or misspell a domain name.

Google error redirector message

Not only that, but due to some support inquiries we’ve gotten it seems like this software is being installed on older Dell computers that use some sort of automatic update service from Dell. Is this thing spreading? Ugh. How bad is it?

In Ulevitch's mind, Google has crossed a line.

I think Google has turned a page here. They have now enabled a piece of software that is hard to remove and forces users to look at a really bad page. In fact, Google knows that this provides users with a dramatically worse experience.

A big part of the problem is the fact that the Google/Dell arrangement has diluted the results shown to users. Instead of offering results close to the typo'd search query, the majority of the "error redirector" page is filled with ads -- dumping money into Google's pockets.

Ulevitch has a vested stake in this because his OpenDNS service (which, by the way, I use and enjoy) is affected by the Google software.

[This] his new "functionality" breaks things. Instead of making DNS requests, the address bar now sends single word queries to Google. This application breaks a lot of OpenDNS functionality our users love. Typo correction? Broken. Shortcuts? Broken. Google's application breaks just about every user-benefiting feature we provide with client software that no user ever asked for.

We enjoy challenging problems at OpenDNS. But we'd rather spend our time making the Internet better rather than solving problems that shouldn’t have been created in the first place. We know that Google is capable of launching great products and services, but this isn't one of them.

Ulevitch said OpenDNS has responded by stretching DNS itself to work around Google's efforts but his complaint calls attention to the risks involved when a big company with deep pockets is uber-aggressive about spreading its wings.

What if Google's "error redirector" software has an exploitable security vulnerability?

I've put in a query to Google for a response to this. I'll update this entry as necessary.

Topics: Google, Dell, Security

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10 comments
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  • So much for "Do No Harm"

    Google has grown too big. I knew the Google we all loved would die as soon as they went public, and they did. Now it's all about revenue and satisfying shareholders. The USER is now second-rate.

    It's going to get worse. They may start taking more and more liberties as time goes on.

    My Trust-O-Meter on Google is dropping weekly.
    BitTwiddler
  • "Don't be EVIL" my ARSE!

    We all know it was only a matter of time.

    I can't wait for the new semantic SE's to go live. Even though I don't see any SERP ads with my Adblock and GM scripts anyway, I will dump Google the first time I find something as fast and relevant as they are now (because admittedly, my answer is usually in the top 10 anymore - as opposed to the former many pages of SERP searching lol).
    BillyG_n_SC
  • 2 to tango

    Don't forget that Dell is putting it on their machines. I ain't just Google here.

    No matter who's doing it, it's really low. Do I smell a new Apple v PC ad coming out?
    j.m.galvin
  • The 800 pound gorilla

    starts to flex.
    frgough
  • Seems to be an IE7 specific "bug"q

    From all that I've read, this seems to be an IE7 specific problem. Anyone with some thinking ability would have switched to opera or firefox already. This is yet another reason not to use IE.

    As for the great goog and dell, wake up folks. They are 800-lb corporate gorillas. They want to make money. Like any other corporate entity they will resort to less than ethical means if that helps them achieve their profits. If this is surprising to anyone, you should study how the US economy works today. It is not socialist.

    As for their "do no evil" PR nonsense, if you believe this coming from a mega-corp, I have a planet to sell you.
    kraterz
    • Socialist?!

      For most of what you say or infer, I agree. I would just like to highlight the
      connection between (for example) socialism and the U.S. economy.

      There is a significant problem to face. For many people have yet to realise that the
      so-called 'left' and 'right' political wings are joined to the same bird. Christopher
      Howard is Professor of Government at the College of William and Mary, and he
      notes in his article 'American Socialism for the Already Rich':

      quote

      The more interesting and salient question is why Republicans cooperate. Although
      Democrats have been instrumental in enacting these programs, they could not
      have succeeded without Republican support.

      unquote

      http://www.alternet.org/workplace/49768/

      So ideologically, the 'left' and 'right' actually have more in common than not.

      "The only difference between the Republican and Democratic parties is the
      velocities with which their knees hit the floor when corporations knock on their
      door."

      -- Ralph Nader

      What if both, the Democrats and Republicans are 'socialist'?

      Essentially, the 'left' and the 'right' are parties that support and implement (to
      varying degrees) socialist policies and practices. Indeed, to quote Lenin:

      ?But is the existence of a socialist republic in a capitalist environment at all
      conceivable?? Lenin asked again. ?From the political and military aspects it seemed
      inconceivable. That it is possible, both politically and militarily, has now been
      proved. It is a fact.?

      http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/critiques/guardian/pt03.htm

      Socialism tends to develop into communism (even in a capitalist environment),
      and in all cases free speech is eventually viewed as a danger to the so-called elite
      and their 'control' of the system of order.

      To learn more about how capitalism, communism, socialism (and other 'isms'), are
      applied and manipulated by the so-called 'rich and powerful' as methods to
      control us (via our thinking and behaviour), study these resources:

      1. An excellent DVD to view is ?Martial Law 9-11: Rise of the Police State?, which is
      available from www.infowars.com or search for it on the net.

      Alex Jones says, "This is the best film I've ever made. Its contents are very
      important to the future of this country and the world. Martial Law is 2 hours and
      35 minutes in duration but is really 3 different films."

      "This is unlike any 9/11 film you've ever seen. I'm credited with being the first
      person in the country to release a 9/11 expose, three weeks after September 11
      (9/11 Emergency Release).

      "Be assured, Martial Law is the best work I've ever done. Please get this film and
      educate yourself and others by making copies of it for not-for-profit, educational
      purposes, because it really does reveal the 'big picture' and expose the power
      behind the throne."

      http://www.infowars.com/martial_law_911.htm

      2. The second DVD is by Aaron Russo (film maker and producer) "America:
      Freedom to Fascism". Discover why wage and salary earners in the U.S. are NOT
      legally obliged to pay income tax.

      So logically, you don't pay income taxes.

      For you too can choose to be like Whitey Harrell (and he WON his court case).
      Listen to what juror Marcy Brooks said on The Peter Mac Show (download the
      audio files Pt1 and Pt2):

      http://www.petermacshow.com/content/view/158/34/

      Wage and salary workers in the U.S. will be amazed!

      Visit http://www.freedomtofascism.com/ or read Aaron's bio at http://
      www.freedomtofascism.com/about_aaron/about_aaron.html

      3. The third DVD is a film by Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott and Joel Bakan. Visit
      http://www.thecorporation.com

      4. And read "None Dare Call It Conspiracy" by Gary Allen with Larry Abraham by
      Concord Press (Rossmoor California) 1972 (third printing). And you will again
      learn who currently controls the U.S. and the world. It's NOT 'the people' as in the
      voters. Humanly speaking, it is the bankers.

      Which brings us back to the 800lb Gorillas. They're much more likely to be
      encouraged by banks, and their love for money.

      I Timothy 6:10 (KJV):
      For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they
      have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

      May the Truth set you Free.
      smdunn
      • Message has been deleted.

        NotOnYourLife2
      • blah, blah, blah

        It's much simpler.

        Socialism is the result of a democratic society using the power of government to
        steal from those who have to give to those he think they should have it instead.

        It think it was John Stuart Mill who said the greatest threat democracies faced was
        when the people realized they could vote themselves money out of the public
        treasury.

        There was a reason the founding fathers limited the franchise to landowners.
        frgough
  • Url Redirection

    When you enter a URL in your browser's address box, then find yourself at another URL, you've experienced URL forwarding. The server that hosts the domain has been given instructions to redirect Web browsers to another address. Domain owners use this trick when they register misspellings of their domain names or the .org and .net versions of their .com domain, so they need develop only one site. For eg: http://dn.vc
    marcusri
  • RE: Google, Dell in URL redirection 'spyware' flap

    How about this as a solution?
    Computer Reimaging
    http://www.ilinktechnology.com/reimaging.html
    empowruser