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Privacy Winning Search Engine War 92

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-don't-even-know-who-you-are-anymore dept.
amigoro writes "Privacy is emerging as the real winner of the Internet search engine war as companies aggressively compete with one another by offering stronger protections for user records, a report published today by the Center for Democracy and Technology concluded. The report notes that until recently, most of the major Internet search engines kept detailed and potentially personally identifiable records of their customers' searches indefinitely. But today the companies are trying to outdo each other in privacy protection by announcing steps to delete old user data, strip the personally identifiable information out of stored search records, and, in one case, give users the option to have all of their search records deleted."
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Privacy Winning Search Engine War

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  • by weak* (1137369) on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @09:16PM (#20164675)
    I haven't actually looked, but I'm POSITIVE that Booble is leading the way here.
    • by eboluuuh (1139173)
      I checked and I suppose you're right.
    • in one case, give users the option to have all of their search records deleted.


      Now that's what I'm talkin' about.
    • In a stunning finale Privacy has defeated both Corporate Greed, and Governmental Curiosity in a come-from-behind victory. Although Privacy is usually the one approached from behind by the other two contenders, in the Great Search-Engine Race of 2007 Privacy managed to squeak out a win from the competition. This is what Privacy had to say when we approached it about this completely unexpected and unheralded victory:

      "Uh...no comment?"

      Fantastic words from a fantastic Ideal. Back to you, Bob.
    • by GigG (887839)

      I haven't actually looked, but I'm POSITIVE that Booble is leading the way here."


      Which kind of proves the headline of the story wrong, doesn't it.
  • right (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    expansion of privacy rights is needed for people as well as the reduction of rights for corporations. allowing the full deletion of records is a move in the right direction.
    • Re:right (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mrsteveman1 (1010381) on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @11:15PM (#20165465)
      Except that most of these companies are merely claiming to do so, we have no idea what is actually being kept either due to internal policy or some sort of government interaction. I would not put it past the current justice dept to force all these companies to publicly claim to have removed data while privately making it available to relevant 3 letter agencies.
  • by ILuvRamen (1026668) on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @09:20PM (#20164715)
    EVERYONE has something they've searched for that they don't want anyone finding out about and probably don't want advertisers knowing about especially. I mean really, anything from looking up diseases you might have to really obscure things or trying to find out information that "everyone" knows to something sexual to your purhcase histories to just about anything else. I can't think of any serious internet user who be okay with every search term they've ever typed seen by anyone else in the world at all.
    • by tonsofpcs (687961) <slashback@ton s o fpcs.com> on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @10:05PM (#20164993) Homepage Journal
      How about the best way of protecting user search records: DON'T CREATE ANY.
      • by rtb61 (674572)
        Here's a hint for you, not everybody, knows everything about everything on this planet, hence surprisingly enough they look it up on a search engine, to find what the term or phrase means. Lets take this as an example http://www.google.com.au/search?aq=t&oq=&hl=en&q= b ombe+alaska&btnG=Search&meta= [google.com.au] so am I looking for a dessert recipe, or am I a terrorist with typo problems wanting to blow up Alaska.

        I suppose it all depends on whether some low IQ, anal retentive, privacy invasive perver

      • by caluml (551744)
        And then how will I find my pictures of goats in latex coats?
    • by ClamIAm (926466)
      EVERYONE has something they've searched for that they don't want anyone finding out about

      I assert that search terms are basically "things searchers think about". It follows that a list of my search terms are a list of things I think about. This is kind of scary when you look at some of the implications. For example, governments who conduct secret surveillance of their citizens can, in a sense, read their citizens' minds. Hey look, that guy just thought about "how to make a nuclear bomb". I could go on,
    • You can try IxQuick [ixquick.com]. Its a metasearch, and you can read about their privacy protection policy here [ixquick.com].
  • I don't like the idea that a simple google search results in my personal information being stored on someone's server out there in cyberspace. There's a reason its called personal information
    • by daeg (828071) on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @09:27PM (#20164759)
      One of the problems is that each search by itself likely isn't personally identifiable, nor is a single search harmful.

      The problem lies when any company can start connecting you typing in "John Smith" (searching yourself), "webmail.myemployer.com" (accidental search vs. address bar), and "my little pony porn".
    • by carlivar (119811)
      Your best best is to create a search engine yourself then, that crawls the entire web. Then you can be sure your personal information is safe in your personal search engine.
  • by echucker (570962) on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @09:26PM (#20164745) Homepage
    how do the search engines communicate these privacy options to the user? If it's not easy to opt-out, it won't matter.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by VariableGHz (1099185)

      If it's not easy to opt-out, it won't matter.
      Those who care will figure out how to opt-out. Those who don't care in the first place are probably not the kind of people who read a privacy policy anyhow.
  • what BS... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @09:29PM (#20164761)
    Privacy is emerging as the real winner of the Internet search engine war

    No. Google has emerged as the winner. Why? Because they offer a good search engine product. The results are very, very likely to be relevant. No one else comes close. The average person doesn't know or care about privacy issues. But they do care about quick & easy searches.

    The report notes that until recently, most of the major Internet search engines kept detailed and potentially personally identifiable records of their customers' searches for as indefinitely.

    And in some countries, they are required by law to do exactly that.

    But today the companies are trying to outdo each other in privacy protection by announcing steps to delete old user data, strip the personally identifiable information out of stored search records

    And how do you know this? Do you have any real proof they do this aside from them saying so?

    a report published today by the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT)

    This is just wishful thinking trying to get attention. Sort of like a Gartner report.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Mazin07 (999269)

      No. Google has emerged as the winner. Why? Because they offer a good search engine product. The results are very, very likely to be relevant. No one else comes close. The average person doesn't know or care about privacy issues. But they do care about quick & easy searches.
      They meant that the good result of search engine competition is privacy, not that privacy policies are what determines market share.
    • by trifish (826353)
      And in some countries, they are required by law to do exactly that.
      That's nonsense. AFAIK, no civilised country has such laws. Would you back up your claims with verifiable references please?
  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @09:35PM (#20164797)
    4. Your check is in the mail.

    3. I won't come in your mouth

    2. I'm from the government and I'm here to help you.

    1. We'll delete your personal information.
    • 1. We'll delete your personal information.

      Eh. I'm inclined to believe that, given how datacenter space ain't free and user data is a bit of a liability, they're happy to dump your data after a month or two. If they haven't aggregated it and sold it off to another company by then, they probably never will.

      I think this is simply marketing spin on a sensible business decision: namely, someone realized they were getting everything they needed within hours or days.

      • ... and sold it off to another company by then ...

        Which pretty much makes whatever point it was that I was trying to make. The reality is that once information has been recorded somewhere, if it's valuable then someone, somewhere, will try to keep it. That's because personal information is valuable ... if it weren't, this entire discussion would be pointless.
      • by malsdavis (542216)
        Funny how everyone believes the Government has limitless disk space to record every phone call, email and conversation at your local bar, yet companies like Google, who own huge chunks of the world's recording hardware, can't afford to keep the data.

        Such information is far more valuable to corporations than it is to the government (alien spec-ops aside) so if you think the government may be snooping on your private data, then it has to be a complete certainty that companies like Google are!

        Although I doubt
    • by trifish (826353)
      1. We'll delete your personal information

      Publicly available Privacy Policy must be complied with. Otherwise, they're just nothing but a bunch of criminals. Yes, laws enforce Privacy Policies (at least here in the EU -- don't know about US).
      • Your naivete is almost endearing, but doesn't change the fact that information is bought and sold on the open market. Take Choicepoint for example (matter of fact, it's their security policies that ought to be up for questioning here, not their privacy policy.) It really does not matter whether the company that originally collected your data automatically deletes it after some set interval. Once that information has been transferred to a third (or fourth, or fifth) party it isn't yours anymore. Worse yet, i
        • by trifish (826353)
          So you think it's naive that Google managers want to abide by the laws? Let me tell you that YOU are the one who's being naive.
          • by jc42 (318812)
            So you think it's naive that Google managers want to abide by the laws?

            No, but it is naive to think that Google managers want to abide by the laws?

            There's a big difference between the two beliefs.

            And note that Google managers, like any organization's managers, aren't a lock-step, unanimous group. It's quite likely that most of them are honest and law-abiding. But it only takes one.

            The prudent approach would be to expect that some of them will do anything with their data that's technically possible. Expec
            • by trifish (826353)
              But it only takes one.

              No it doesn't. You clearly don't know anything about big corporations, nota bene public ones and closely watched ones, such as Google. Ever heard of internal security audits? Managers watching over subordinate managers? Data flow control? If one manager dared to not comply with the laws, he would sooner or later be found, fired and handed over to a Law Enforcement agency. If you think that Google would dare to violate laws at this point, you are the one who's naive. It would pretty muc
              • If one manager dared to not comply with the laws, he would sooner or later be found, fired and handed over to a Law Enforcement agency.

                If that were true, explain Enron to me. Worldcom. Adelphia. Global Crossing. Yes, the eventually got found out, but only after the damage was done!

                You clearly don't know anything about big corporations. I can assure you that sooner or later that "one manager" will fail to comply with the law, either out of ignorance or for personal gain. That's the way it is: people ar
                • by trifish (826353)
                  If that were true, explain Enron to me. Worldcom. Adelphia. Global Crossing. Yes, the eventually got found out

                  You should have stopped after the part "Yes, the eventually got found out". I didn't have to read any further.

                  If you believe that Google would risk their reputation even though the likelihood of their being found to be criminals(!) is substantial, then you're naive. I say go ahead and risk it, I can't wait to see the Google empire fall down as Enron.
  • Completely bogus (Score:2, Insightful)

    by iminplaya (723125)
    How in the world is anybody going to verify that the data is actually being "shredded"? I don't believe this for a second.
    • Re: bogosity (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward


      Pick your engine and don't give them the information in the first place [blackboxsearch.com].

      • by uucp2 (731567)
        What makes you think it is better to give the information to blackboxsearch.com instead of Google?
    • by jc42 (318812)
      How in the world is anybody going to verify that the data is actually being "shredded"?

      Over the years, there have been a number of stories about organizations (companies, government agencies, etc.) that complied with court orders, laws, etc., and deleted data - after first making several backup copies.

      There's also the ongoing story of all the people who are surprised (often in court) by the stuff they thought deleted that turned out to be backed up. It's especially funny when politicians are surprised to l
  • by wamerocity (1106155) on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @09:45PM (#20164867) Journal
    that one episode of south park, 1104, The Snuke. While a hilarious episode, what was so funny was how everybody was able to do a background check on the terrorists by 'crosschecking' their myspace/youtube/jdate/personal blog/ebay/craigslist/google searches/realtor.com/etc etc accounts with each other. While it was a funny play on Web 2.0 it also shows just how much of our personal information is out there, and can be easily tracked down by just about anyone with a brain, some spare time, and an internet connection.

    I sure as hell don't want ALL of my searches available to anyone...

  • by blahplusplus (757119) on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @09:59PM (#20164949)
    I really REALLY doubt the "big winner" is privacy, as long as there is money to be made from knowing as much as possible companies will find a way.

    No one is going to give up personal information thats worth billions of dollars in terms of market research and increasing profits for many industries.
    • Point well taken. However, if privacy can be made marketable, that could turn the situation on its head, with businesses standing to lose more from customers fleeing than from missed demographic data revenue. A shame this could never happen in the ISP market.
      • "with businesses standing to lose more from customers fleeing than from missed demographic data revenue."

        The truth is businesses will never be totally transparent, it will be akin to what wal-mart does, they are so big and widespread they can get away with selling knock-off merchandise simply because it's time consuming to track down every story that is doing it and then bring a lawsuit aginst them, ensuring that only big companies with a vested interest in deterring knock offs will bring the lawsuits.

        It's
    • It is probably reasonable that companies will begin to push privacy in term of search engines simply because mining search data is not going to be major profit center.

      At present the emerging profit center is truly personal data, emails and documents and spreadsheets. Users are putting all these on free services like Google with a thought of what how it will be used. Search data is small potatoes in comparison.

      In fact if someone like MS, with money to spend and no need to make an immediate profit, deve

  • Well, sort of... (Score:2, Interesting)

    The report is actually here: [cdt.org]

    It looks like the most privacy-friendly, hands-down, is ask.com with their opt-in "ask eraser". A distant second is aol.com. But both of them share their data with Google, which appears to have the worst policy.

    Everybody seems to hang onto most everything for more than a year; better than forever I guess, but a pretty big window for, say, subpoenas.
  • The google. (Score:3, Funny)

    by WK2 (1072560) on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @10:28PM (#20165123) Homepage
    I just happen to be an internet user and I thought the google was the only search engine.
  • I call it progress. But it's not a win. Considering I today saw an invitation to have Google track my browsing history, I don't think we're even on the right track. Until search engines take proactive steps to prevent collection of individually-identifiable data, it won't be a win.

    The fact is, we see something we don't like, we complain, and we induce a reactionary response. Reactionary responses are always deficient; They either reach too far or not far enough, and they're always after-the-fact.
  • Tag request: "yeahright"
  • There should be no user records to destroy in the first place!!!
  • linuxquestions, linuxforums, slashdot, beeradvocate, myspace, and flickr, in that order of occurrence make up my top ten google hits. The key is keeping my userid separate from my real life name. My real name, in quotes, does not return a single result that refers to me in the top ten. As long as I don't put the two together no one who doesn't personally know me would put the two together.

    I also use the customize google firefox plugin to keep my secrets from google.
  • No, seriously. This is news to me. Yeah, I can understand why everyone would want there search terms anonymous and not linked together, but then again most people seem to only really know about Google and all google has been trumpeting is more indexing as a new feature. All I've seen after I search with them is "New! View and manage your web history" in the upper-right-hand corner as if it's a feature everyone would want. And gmail. Your email all sitting there, archived potentially forever depending on jus
    • by grege222 (995375)
      What's to stop those sites from actually logging the information themselves? For the extra paranoid there is always tor [eff.org] for anonymizing your IP and CustomizeGoogle [mozilla.org] for anonymizing your cookie.
  • After they have already sold it to another (sister) company who's name you don't even know of and who conveniently has no privacy policy. It's just too easy to obfuscate and continue with business as usual.

    - no sig, really!
  • Looks like the last chink in the magical "Do No Evil" marketing armor has been patched. Breathe easy, sheeple!
    • by moxley (895517)
      No, they've just taken a cue for the US Government and redefined what the meaning of the word "evil" is.
  • by DwarfGoanna (447841) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @02:09AM (#20166369)
    That's funny, because I didn't notice it at all.
  • Privacy is emerging as the real winner of the Internet search engine war as companies aggressively compete with one another by offering stronger protections for user records

    No, no, no, no. Please don't propagate this myth. Seriously. Data Privacy is NOT Data Protection. That's corporate bull-crap to utterly change the meaning of data privacy (and, likewise, privacy). As Roger Clarke points out [anu.edu.au]:

    Data privacy Individuals claim that data about themselves should not be automatically available to other indi

  • by athloi (1075845) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @09:19AM (#20168651) Homepage Journal
    There may be no cure. As both Orwell and Huxley noted, selective enforcement of laws guarantees absolute control. Making fun things illegal makes normal people criminals. As a result, the best products are those which take away the risk of governmental or social interference with our lives. Did you hear us, corporate America? We want to hide out and not have to deal with our society. Since drugs are illegal, privacy is a good second best.
  • They won't let me get it in here any other way so I'll just do it here:

    Cotse.Net Privacy Service [cotse.net]

    Take that mods! Btw, this is where you mod me down for being off-topic or otherwise a bad /. citizen. :p
  • Sure, they'll delete your personal information - but the company they've already sold it to won't.

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