In a wonderfully sarcastic response to Dave Winer’s concern over Google’s Autolink feature, Yoz Graham argues that Autolink is an extension of a fundamental feature of the web, the user’s ability to change web content to best suit them.
I’m not convinced by this argument; being able to disable images and alter the style of a page to suit personal preference is vital, and this is something every socially responsible web designer should account for. However, Autolink alters the content of the page by adding hypertext links to, for example, postal addresses, allowing the user to view maps of those address.
This alteration only takes place when the user enables it each time a page is loaded, and of course it’s a feature that is of benefit to the user. However, it’s also of commercial interest to Google and allowing Google to benefit from your web content is something that you should have control over, much like Google’s Adsense system.