Google Protects the +1 System From Automated Scripts by Tracking Mouse Movements

Google +1  is a powerful tool in Google Search and it is capable of driving a consistent organic traffic to your website. More importantly, it forms a powerful network for your website on Google Search and enhances its visibility across circles. With this powerful a system, Google has to bring in advanced security so that the system is not gamed. To do just that (and maybe more), Google has devised a unique way of securing the +1 system from automated scripts.
A recent  question on Stack Overflow  brought my attention to what Google is doing to protect +1. You will be surprised to know that Google tracks your mouse movements. Now, Google has been notorious for tracking users and their behavior and their tracking systems have troubled skeptics for years. However, this mouse tracking is different. This is an innovative solution to a troublesome problem and deserves appreciation.

The mouse movement of a user uniquely identifies the behavior of that user. It generates a random number using the entropy of the cursor movements. This random number acts as a unique ID can be used for a variety of purposes that are unclear at the moment. However, it seems like a good way to prevent automated scripts and bots from clicking on +1.

An excerpt from the Google +1 TOS reveals,

We may share aggregate statistics related to users’ +1 activity with the public, our users, and partners, such as publishers, advertisers, or connected sites. For example, we may tell a publisher that 10% of the people who +1’d this page are in Tacoma, Washington.

It states clearly that Google can also reveal your usage patterns to advertisers.

Further insight

Some further digging on this topic spilled more awesomeness. This analytics scheme (mouse cursor tracking) is not used only by Google but also by Bing.  This paper  [link to pdf file] outlines Bing’s methods and reasons for tracking user mouse movements. The paper also echoes the well-known fact that cursor movements are an approximate reflection of eye-movements, thus acting as an eye-tracking system. In short, tracking the cursor also gives us patterns on how humans take interest in a page. This can help in designing a better UX for search and other related business.

(Via: Hacker News)

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Chinmoy Kanjilal

Chinmoy Kanjilal is a FOSS enthusiast and evangelist. He is passionate about Android. Security exploits turn him on and he loves to tinker with computer networks. He rants occasionally at You can connect with him on Twitter @ckandroid.

  • I presently have a website that offers to gather plus 1’s for clients’ websites. So far it has proven to be less than lucrative.
    However, I have an opportunity to buy a “system” that will gather these plus one’s for free. This way I can gather these on behalf of clients’ directly rather than using a “wholesale” service provider as is presently the case.
    Apparently this system IS NOT a bot of any kind and therefore can’t be tracked by Google.
    The seller of this system is keeping the details under wraps until I agree to buy, even though money will not flow until I finish my due diligence.
    Has anyone ever heard of such a system? Any and all information will be greatly appreciated even though it will not form the basis for my final purchasing decision. Thanks…Joe