Did Google Just Disable Privacy-Friendly Scroogle? [UPDATED]

scroogle mask Did Google Just Disable Privacy Friendly Scroogle? [UPDATED]

A satirical image from Scroogle, reflecting the search engine's tendentious position on Google's privacy policy. (scroogle.org)

UPDATE: Google says it did not target Scroogle specifically. “We do have automated systems to deter scraping or excessive queries to Google, and spikes in query traffic can cause issues for some sites,” a spokesman said in an email.

Not long ago, Google changed its privacy policy to give itself more liberties with user data. Every time a major Internet company gets media attention for privacy issues, search volume goes way up on Scroogle, a little independent, nonprofit search engine. Scroogle scrapes its search results from Google, but it shields a user’s real IP address and prevents Google from setting a cookie, making it impossible for Google to tell which searches are from the same person; it also does not show ads. But today, the 11-year-old service stopped working.

Scrooglers who attempt a search right now get an error message: “Forbidden. So sorry… Google is temporarily blocking this server.”

Google has blocked Scroogle twice before, according to U.K.-based The Register, albeit unintentionally. The service has actually received help on a few occasions from Google employees, says Scroogle creator Daniel Brandt, who also operates the blog Google Watch.

Already, users are sending letters to the Federal Trade Commission.

The note from Scroogle:

Yes, Scroogle is upset with Google.

1. Google handles 1 billion searches per day, while Scroogle handled 350,000 searches per day. This means that Scroogle was 0.035 percent of Google’s load.

2. Google owns 900,000 servers, while Scroogle leased just six low-end dedicated servers.

3. Google has $45 billion in the bank, while Scroogle is a recognized public charity and survives on modest donations averaging $43 per day.

4. For more than seven years, Scroogle has always made serious efforts to detect and block any and all bots. Almost every Scroogle searcher is a live person clicking on a mouse. Yet Google treats Scroogle like a bot because they see the traffic from our IP addresses as higher than normal. Searching Google with a bot is against Google’s terms of service, but Scroogle users are not bots.

Is it “Terms of Service” for Google, or is it “Terms of Monopoly”?

Google and Scroogle did not immediately respond to emails. We’ll keep digging.