The web is buzzing with Google’s new announcement that they are making search data more anonymous after 18–24 months of it being collected. As of right now Google stores the query itself, IP addresses and cookie details each time a user performs a search. This gives Google personally identifiable information about every user.
The question that I have read virtually everywhere asks why Google even has to store the IP address of a user? Wouldn’t it be just as effective to come up with a “user ID” for the different visitors which would serve the same purpose? When AOL leaked their search data to the Internet it only contained an ID number for each user. Sure you could find all of the searches done by the same user, but at least no one could specifically identify you via your IP address. With that ID AOL is still able to track search patterns, but they do so in a non-personally identifiable way.
Google doesn’t plan making this new plan effective for several months (maybe even a year), but they just wanted to keep everyone informed as to what they do with your information. I commend them for even posting about this because other than AOL I have no idea what information these search engines are keeping from me.
One company could eventually control all access to information on the Web! Controlling your mind would only be a step away! Then they’ll have you.
I was flipping through the blog posts and they did end up admitting that it is the Ask.com UK site behind the whole thing. The very first comment I saw on that blog post was pretty amusing:
“or try Ask and then switch back” – I did try an I immediately switch back (to Google). Choice isn’t about choosing something else just for the sake of it.
I chose Google because it gives the the best results every time, Ask.com simply doesn’t – maybe someday you will – but not by clever marketing but by improving your results until they are as relevant as the competition.
So is Google trying to take over the world by controlling everyone’s information? Maybe, but if they do it will be because people voluntarily use their services. They have developed some great products, and that is why I use them. Sure I know that they collect some information on me, but that is a tradeoff I’m willing to make for services that I don’t have to pay for.
I remember when there was a huge uproar with the initial announcement of ads in Gmail. People were in awe that Google would scan emails to generate related advertising. Google assured people that it was not storing any content from the emails and that it was just looking for keywords. People were still wanting in Gmail so bad that invitations were selling on eBay like hotcakes!
While the latest development in Google’s search privacy is nice, it isn’t something I’ll really think about later on. It’s not like I’m going to think about what their collecting from me every time I search, because the truth is that all search engines are keeping tabs on you in some way or another. The only way to get around that would be to develop your own search engine!
Maybe the Patriot Search is what you need if you don’t want to worry about Google keeping your information. The Patriot Search (a joke thought up by Google Blogoscoped) has a mission like no other search engine out there:
Our mission is to provide the best possible search engine to you while at the same time, making sure the government is informed should you search for something obscure, illegal, or unpatriotic.
I felt the need to throw some humor into this article. :) All right, there are a lot of different stories I read on this topic so I’ll just list them all here as my sources: SlashDot, InfoWorld, InformationWeek, Yahoo! News, Google Blogoscoped, TechDirt, ValleyWag, TechMeMe, and the Official Google Blog
Thanks to everyone who sent this in!