The web has been abuzz with privacy issues and not without good reason. The main ‘culprits’ have been Google and Facebook and the entire debate seems to be actually having an effect. Companies are beginning to be more forthcoming about their privacy policies and more open about their operations. In the latest example, Google is opening up the RLZ library, which is built into some Chrome versions, as well as other Google desktop software to provide measurements and analytics data.
“One area where we’ve seen a lot of interest and questions is the RLZ library that is built into Google Chrome. RLZ gives us the ability to accurately measure the success of marketing promotions and distribution partnerships in order to meet our contractual and financial obligations. It assigns non-unique, non-personally identifiable promotion tracking labels to client products,” Roger Tawa, software engineer, and Glenn Wilson, product manager at Google, explain. “Today, we’ve open-sourced the code that generates the RLZ parameter that sometimes appears in Google search queries.”
The RLZ parameter is sometimes added to the search URL in Google products and serves as a measurement tool for the company. Google says the code is not unique and is not personally identifiable. By the company’s own break-down of what the code means, it’s perfectly feasible that two and likely a lot more people would generate the same code. Still, it was a matter of concern to some users, so Google has open-sourced the library to allow inspection of the code.
Google has also provided a detailed explanation of the components in the RLZ code. As you can see from the image, the code incorporates data about the application, about how the user got the software, if he or she was already a Google user, as well as info on when the application was first installed and when the first Google search was conducted.
The RLZ library, which is common to all Google products, now resides as a dedicated open-source project. Still, if you want to make sure you avoid RLZ, you can use Chromium instead of Chrome. Alternatively, you can get Google Chrome from a direct source, like its homepage or from Softpedia, and it will also be RLZ-free.
Chromium is available for download here.
Google Chrome for Windows is available for download here.
Google Chrome for Mac is available for download here.
Google Chrome for Linux is available for download here.