Google has announced a public DNS system designed to improve the Internet's performance and security. Google Public DNS is a free, global Domain Name System resolution service.
Google said the public service can improve web performance because current lookup services are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of requests. "Since Google's search engine already crawls the web on a daily basis and in the process resolves and caches DNS information, we wanted to leverage our technology to experiment with new ways of addressing some of the existing DNS challenges around performance and security," the company explained.
The service's goals include offering a better alternative to ISPs' DNS services that delivers better results, improved security and faster performance; reduces the load on ISPs' DNS servers; and makes the web faster and more secure.
Noble Goals or Dark Agenda?
"By taking advantage of our global data-center and caching infrastructure, we can directly serve large numbers of user requests without having to query other DNS resolvers," the company said. "We are launching this experimental service to test some new ways to approach DNS-related challenges. We hope to share what we learn with developers of DNS resolvers and the broader web community and get their feedback."
Noble goals, but does Google have another, less noble agenda -- namely getting at vast amounts of consumer data? "Consider this," says Andrew Storms, director of security operations for nCircle Security. "Viewing a web page in your browser can easily generate a dozen different DNS queries. . . . While the user may only type in their browser, nearly half or more of the content [of] any popular portal web site is not directly hosted by them. Each of these requests for content makes a DNS query."
Thus, it's easy to see how a widespread public service could relieve strain on the system. "The people that manage the servers that respond to DNS queries have the ability to look and see what is being asked," Storms said.
"Spend some time compiling that data" -- and Google likes nothing better than compiling data -- "and you end up with a treasure of data points. The ability to look into that data provides an instant snapshot into what people are doing on the Internet.""
A Vast Database of User Behavior
If Google can sit at the crossroads of a large majority of Internet traffic, "they will have information on what web sites are being viewed, regardless if the user used Google or not to first find the site," Storms said.
"Privacy concerns with how Google uses the data will certainly come into question, just as Google search history has already been scrutinized. The bottom line is if you are concerned about Google's use of the data, don't use the Google service."