New Google Chrome Spell Checker Monitors Everything You Type

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“What does an NSL compel Google to disclose?

Under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) 18 U.S.C. section 2709, the FBI can seek “the name, address, length of service, and local and long distance toll billing records” of a subscriber to a wire or electronic communications service. The FBI can’t use NSLs to obtain anything else from Google, such as Gmail content, search queries, YouTube videos or user IP addresses.”

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I’m the first to admit that I am a big fan of Google’s Chrome browser. Generally it’s the best browser, except for font rendering on Windows, which is awful, but that’s another story. This story is about an interesting new feature released yesterday as part of a Google Chrome update. The “Ask Google for suggestions” is a new spell checking feature, powered by the same technologies used by Google search. The cloud based service supports grammar checking, proper nouns, homonyms, and context-sensitive spell checking in English. It’s a pretty nice feature.Users on Windows, Linux and Chrome OS will receive these enhancements in the coming weeks (they’re still working on Mac support).

Only one problem, there is a catch.

Weeks ago Google published a “range” of times it receives National Security Letters demanding it divulge account information to the authorities without warrants. According to a recent Wired article; “National Security Letters allow the government to get detailed information on Americans’ finances and communications without oversight from a judge. The FBI has issued hundreds of thousands of NSLs and has even been reprimanded for abusing them. The NSLs are written demands from the FBI that compel internet service providers, credit companies, financial institutions and businesses like Google to hand over confidential records about their customers, such as subscriber information, phone numbers and e-mail addresses, websites visited and more as long as the FBI says the information is “relevant” to an investigation.”

Now that both Google and Microsoft have admitted it. You can probably assume every other major cloud service provider is getting these National Security Letters as well. So the question is; How comfortable are you with the possibility that everything you type might be monitored? Then again there is a simple solution. Just disable this feature.

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