Google Tracks User Data to Monitor Load Times
Google has a post up talking about how the company uses data it collects from Google Toolbar users, specifically in relation to its enhanced features. These features are opt-in.
"To put it simply, we aggregate the URLs visited by our users who opt-in to enhanced features and analyze the resulting data to help us improve our products," says Google Product Manager Aseem Sood. "In that sense, it is similar to our other opt-in mechanisms, like crash reporting in Google Chrome or help center surveys that allow users to provide valuable feedback to us."
"One great example of how this data helps improve our products can be seen in our malware detection efforts," continues Sood. "By getting a better sense of the most visited sites on the web, we’re able to focus Google’s automated malware scanners on the most popular URLs that users are currently visiting. This data is then used to power Google’s SafeBrowsing feature which provides alerts to users searching on Google or who are browsing the web using Firefox, Safari or Google Chrome, that the site they want to visit may harm their computer."
Google also uses the data as a "page load timer". When a user’s browser sends out a request to fetch Google Maps, for example, Google starts the timer. They stop it once the page is finished loading. As you may know, Google has been all about speeding up the web (particularly its own sites).
Google launched the "Let’s Make the Web faster" site back in June, as an initiative to get webmasters to help the company make the web faster. Google also launched the Page Speed Tool, which helps site owners and developers identify ways to make their sites load quicker.