"Big Browser is watching"

Coming after improvements to Firefox and continued unease at Google's life-pervading insight, this image is outperforming the ███████ ████ Virality Control Group today (via).

It got me thinking about all the promises that were made. Here's the earliest article in Google News to contain "Big browser" in its headline, published by Time Magazine on Nov. 18, 1994.

World Wide Web die-hard surfers -- many of whom tend to be privacy-rights absolutists -- have been horrified to learn that the software that guides them through the Internet could pose huge Orwellian problems. Over the last week or so, a growing number of heads-up E-mail dispatches have warned that some "browsers," including free and commercial copycats of the popular Mosaic program, quietly supply the Internet E-mail addresses of Net site visitors. These lists, critics argue, could soon be sold to the highest bidder --or even to government snoopers. "You'll go into a bulletin board that has an ad, and in a little bit of time, the manufacturer can start sending you junk mail," David Farber, a University of Pennsylvania computer science professor, told TIME Daily. The next step, Farber and others theorize, is a credit-card-like record of what you've bought over the Net and which political discussion groups you've perused. Web programmers, who never intended such consequences, are now talking about creating either "privacy buttons" or warning labels.

The concerns isolated:

• Browsers secretly collect and share personal data. • Aggregated data could be sold or shared to marketers and the government. Read the rest