Internet

Search Engines Compete on Privacy

|

Search engines are in an arms race to offer better privacy protections to the users, and so far Ask.com is winning, with a promise that "a user's IP address, search data cookie ID and search query will be completely deleted and expunged":

In the last few months, the search engine business has experienced its own version of cutthroat competition: a privacy policy war, with Google, Ask.com and Microsoft vying to outdo one another in protecting their users' personal information.

For people concerned about privacy, though, things are looking up everywhere, says reason contributor Declan McCullagh:

These were remarkable improvements. Google, Microsoft and Yahoo told News.com, in response to an earlier survey we did in February 2006, that they kept search records for as long as the data prove useful. Now they've set expiration dates, and Ask.com went further by promising to stop recording user search histories starting later this year. Google also has shortened the lifespan of its cookies from expiring in 2038 to expiring two years from the last visit.

Search privacy is important because our Googling (and Yahooing, and MSNing and so on) provides a unique glimpse into our personalities and private lives. Search terms have been used to convict a wireless hacker and lock up a man charged with killing his wife. Search engine activity is also a fertile growth area for nosy divorce lawyers and employment disputes.

Read about various search engines' privacy policies in their own words here.

NEXT: The Candidates' Four Detention Camps

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Does any of this matter?

    I could be misinformed but aren’t ALL ISP’s required by the feds to keep records of all your internet activity anyway?

  2. Google also has shortened the lifespan of its cookies from expiring in 2038 to expiring two years from the last visit.

    Of course, most people probably aren’t going to be running on the same install of their operating system and browser for two years anyway (let alone anything close to 30). Google had virtually nothing to lose by doing this, especially as more and more people are registering accounts with them, making themselves far easier to track than by cookie.

  3. I could be misinformed but aren’t ALL ISP’s required by the feds to keep records of all your internet activity anyway?

    Yes, but it’s somewhat protected. The companies keep the records of what IP’s hit which sites, but the government can only subpoena “what IP hit this site at X time and date,” i.e. the government cannot subpoena the whole database.

    I think. It’s all so confusing, these interTubes

  4. Well, it wouldn’t be so confusing if we treated the internet like a series of tubes instead of dump trucks.

  5. I feel like the internet is more of a scraper bike than dump trucks.

  6. Well, it would be a bigger deal if people couldn’t just delete ALL their cookies, any time they please.

    Of course, I say this knowing that most people don’t ever get onto their hard drives and poke around. One friend of mine puts EVERYTHING on his desktop, so that it’s as cluttered as a kid’s closet.

  7. keeping privacy is always an important right from the past to now.we take advantage of internet and get a lot convenience from it,but there is a common problem privacy leak,the most people could suffer it.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.