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Tech & Services

Google DNS: gathering speed or gathering information?

Google Wave, Google Chrome, and as of December 3, 2009, the web surfing crowd now has access to Google Public DNS. The search engine company has put the latest product out as part of an overall effort to make the web faster.

Google was brought to life in 1996 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin – Stanford University students at the time. The company has since grown from humble beginnings as just a search engine into a growing number of products, partnerships and acquisitions. As a multiple winner of Fortune Magazine’s #1 Best Place to Work and one of most visited web sites (as ranked by Alexa), Google’s mission is not only to organize information on a world-wide basis but also make it useful and accessible. Unfortunately, this has given birth to a considerable controversy concerning privacy of personal information.

For those unfamiliar with the inner workings of DNS (Domain Name System), this service is normally handled by one’s ISP (Internet Service Provider). The basic function of DNS is to convert domain names into IP addresses allowing for computer to computer communication. With the Google DNS service, computer users change their preferred and alternate DNS server entries to those IPs given by Google. This is not a task for the computer novice.  Caution is advised as well as writing down everything prior to making any changes.

Does the new DNS product make surfing any faster? According to PC Magazine with comparisons to the default DNS setup and OpenDNS, the results do not reveal an enormous speed improvement, though some can be seen. The difference is a few tenths of a second or so and, over the course of a day full of serious surfing and web sites pulling up multiple name server information, this can add up.

Where the controversy comes into play is when the computer user’s uniquely assigned IP address is saved by Google. Google has attempted to calm the masses with a public Security Benefits web page and contends that the information is only kept for a short period of time to detect and prevent possible denial-of-service attacks. The search engine company states that all temporary logs are destroyed within 48 hours. Beyond this, there are permanent records kept that store location information (not IP or personally identifiable information) to allow for debugging, abuse prevention and overall improvements of the new DNS service.

As Google is already known for having millions of Internet user’s searches saved in their data warehouses (all only made anonymous after 9 months), this may be a bit off-putting for many, including myself. It seems that Google already has more than enough information about me and I’d rather not give them more. It is more than just a bit unnerving to realize just how much information they might already have given the popularity of the search engine and the variety of products they now offer. Between pictures of your house to what your exact IP address is, where exactly does the information gathering end?

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2 comments for “Google DNS: gathering speed or gathering information?”

  1. Yawn… while I can appreciate the tin hat stance. You do realise that your isp knows far far more about your online activites than google does right?

    Posted by Andrew | Wednesday, December 9, 2009, 4:44 pm
  2. Andrew, I’ll grant you that it is a bit of a paranoid stance. Here’s the thing though, at last check, my ISP wasn’t standing outside my house taking pictures of it for the Internet. For me, it’s less about paranoia and more about the principles.

    Posted by Renee Hendricks | Thursday, December 10, 2009, 10:48 am

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