There has always been rumors that Google used the data they get from the Google Toolbar to discover new content, outside of the normal crawling or sitemaps method. But those rumors have been debunked several times in our history.
Yesterday, in the whole Bing copying Google spectacle, Danny Sullivan has a quote from Google's Singhal that reads:
Absolutely not. The PageRank feature sends back URLs, but we've never used those URLs or data to put any results on Google's results page. We do not do that, and we will not do that," said Singhal.
The thing is, is that 100% true? Doesn't Google use the toolbar for the site speed metric found in Google Webmaster Tools? And isn't site speed a factor, maybe limited, for ranking in Google?
But Google isn't saying here they don't use the data at all. They said they "never used those URLs or data to put any results on Google's results page," meaning including any new URLs in their index.
In any event, it is nice to have this transparency. But we do need a bit more clarification from Google on this.
Forum discussion WebmasterWorld.