[guardian-dev] forcing HTTPS when using goo.gl shortlinks

Hans-Christoph Steiner hans at guardianproject.info
Fri Jan 9 14:18:23 EST 2015

Jonas Smedegaard:
> Quoting Hans-Christoph Steiner (2015-01-09 16:01:55)
>> I'm digging through the guts of how apps are sharing location 
>> information. For the most part, its not a great situation, but there 
>> is a lot of hope with the geo: URI (http://geouri.org).  Anyway, lots 
>> of Google apps share location using a http://goo.gl shortlink (e.g. 
>> http://goo.gl/maps/V9dIV), which is even worse for a number of 
>> reasons:
>> * it uses http: to connect to goo.gl
>> * the link that the goo.gl redirects to is also http://, so even if you do
>> https://goo.gl/maps/V9dIV, then the next step is http://.
>> * the link that goo.gl redirects do obfuscates the latlong, so it can't be
>> parsed out of it by other apps, even though the final link when you get to the
>> page includes the latlong (very lame, Google).
> I wouldn't call it lame but a deliberate design to not expose semantics 
> (gold to them) but replace that with tracking URLs (more gold to them).
>> Any ideas on how an app can get the latlong securely?  One simple way 
>> to improve this situation would be to pass something in the query 
>> string to https://goo.gl/maps/V9dIV to make it only use HTTPS.  Anyone 
>> know if anything like that exists?  Or is that ftid thing parseable?
>> Otherwise, I think an app will have to actually connect to 
>> https://goo.gl/maps/V9dIV, then get the redirect URL and convert it to 
> I expect it is by design not possible to resolve the underlying geodata 
> securely.  If my suspicion is correct, then I guess the only possibility 
> is if someone hosts a proxy to expand those tracking URLs on behalf of 
> privacy-concerned users (who then would need to trust that proxy to not 
> log anything).

I think you're a bit more paranoid than warranted ;-).  Google doesn't need to
make special URLs to track people, they track everything that hits their
servers.  But it does look like they are trying to prevent people from parsing
the location out of their shared URLs.

As for using HTTPS, it is fully possible to force the whole thing over HTTPS,
you just have to do it manually.  And if you use Chrome, then it would be
automatically forced to HTTPS anyway.

The upside is that Google has done a good job making geo: URIs standard in
Android.  All the map apps accept them, and they are part of their developer


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