noticed today that Google has begun to use an old redirection trick in order to track not only what its users search for, but also which results they selectThis is a privacy issue of which to be wary.

For example, when I look up this blog on Google, the main link on the top search result does not point to, but to the following address:

If you click on that link, your browser does not go straight to the blog, as one might assume and as would be normal. Instead, the link points to Google, which then redirects you to the blog. In other words, you do end up at your intended destination, but you pass through a Google server, allowing it to log which destination you chose.

Fortunately, it is easy to work around this practice. Instead of clicking the link, copy the destination address (URI), and paste it into the address bar of your browser, deleting all the Google surplus before hitting Enter. Alternatively, you could use another search engine instead of Google; as an example, the corresponding result over at Bing simply links to, quite as it should. NB! Things have changed — please refer to the comments below.

What do you think of Google pulling this redirection stunt? Please post your comments!

I also noted in June 2010 that if one allows Google to run client-side scripts (such as JavaScript) on one’s computer, hovering over the link may quite deceptively cause the direct URI to be displayed in the browser’s status bar even though clicks are redirected through a Google server as described above. This can be particularly confusing in combination with certain browser features; as an example, the “yellow bar” file download protection in Microsoft® Internet Explorer® is often unable to follow the redirection after the user has allowed the download.