The Chrome browser’s Terms of Service (TOS) prove that Google definitely is not an ordinary software publisher, but is distributing Chrome in the form of Software as a Service that has draconian licensing terms. To wit:
• The Terms of Service apply to Chrome: “These Terms of Service apply to the executable code version of Google Chrome.” (TOS preface, line 1)
• Children can’t use Chrome: You must be “of legal age to form a binding contract with Google.” (TOS ¶2.3)
• Google can cap your usage of Chrome: “[F]ixed upper limits [on the number of transmissions you may send or receive through the Services may be set by Google at any time, at Google’s discretion.” (TOS ¶4.5)
• You might need to register Chrome: “[Y]ou may be required to provide information about yourself (such as identification or contact details) as part of the registration process for the Service, or as part of your continued use of the Services. (TOS ¶5.1)
• You might need Chrome to use other Google Services: “You agree not to access (or attempt to access) any of the Services by any means other than through the interface that is provided by Google, unless you have been specifically allowed to do so in a separate agreement with Google.” (TOS ¶5.3)
• Chrome is not open source software. “You acknowledge and agree that Google (or Google’s licensors) own all legal right, title and interest in and to the Services, including any intellectual property rights which subsist in the Services (whether those rights happen to be registered or not, and wherever in the world those rights may exist). You further acknowledge that the Services may contain information which is designated confidential by Google and that you shall not disclose such information without Google’s prior written consent. (TOS ¶9.1)
• You give Google a copyright license on content you display in Chrome: “By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.” (TOS ¶11.1. See also TOS ¶11.2 and 11.3)
And even content you don’t own: “You confirm and warrant to Google that you have all the rights, power and authority necessary to grant the above licence.” (TOS ¶11.4)
• Updating Chrome is mandatory: “[U]pdates are designed to improve, enhance and further develop the Services and may take the form of bug fixes, enhanced functions, new software modules and completely new versions. You agree to receive such updates (and permit Google to deliver these to you) as part of your use of the Services.” (TOS ¶12.1)
According to the Google Chrome Privacy Notice:
Your copy of Google Chrome includes one or more unique application numbers. These numbers and information about your installation of the browser (e.g., version number, language) will be sent to Google when you first install and use it and when Google Chrome automatically checks for updates. [Emphsis added.]
Note: If Google can update your software at will and has it’s ID number, it undoubtedly can associate the ID number with your Google account (allowed by TOS ¶5.1) and, within the TOS, delete Chrome from your machine.
• Google may install advertisements in Chrome: “In consideration for Google granting you access to and use of the Services, you agree that Google may place such advertising on the Services.” (TOS ¶12.1)
Google’s are the most draconian software licensing terms for a browser that I’ve seen to date and are clearly evil.
Disclaimer: I am not an attorney.
Update 9/3/2008 11:00 AM PDT: Added first point (explicit applicability of TOS to Chrome.)
Update 9/3/2008 1:00 PM PDT: Ironic message box that appeared during Chrome uninstall process:
and invasive questionnaire asking why the user chose to uninstall it:
Update 9/3/2008 2:00 PM PDT: Google Intends to Change Section 11
According to Ars Technica’s Nate Anderson in his Google on Chrome EULA controversy: our bad, we'll change it post of 12:00 PDT:
Google's Rebecca Ward, Senior Product Counsel for Google Chrome, now tells Ars Technica that the company tries to reuse these licenses as much as possible, "in order to keep things simple for our users." Ward admits that sometimes "this means that the legal terms for a specific product may include terms that don't apply well to the use of that product" and says that Google is "working quickly to remove language from Section 11 of the current Google Chrome terms of service. This change will apply retroactively to all users who have downloaded Google Chrome."
I don’t believe that Google releases any “service” without a prior thorough review of the applicable terms and services by the company’s legal staff. I don’t buy the “oversight” excuse. I believe Google’s legal eagles decided to float a trial balloon, which got shot down.
However, simply “remov[ing] language from Section 11 of the current Google Chrome terms of service” clearly won’t solve the problem. They’ve got plenty else to remove, too.