Privacy ShirtIt’s been almost a year since AOL released a list of 20 million search queries that came from 500,000 different users. Within that content was some extremely personal and questionable information which brought attention to search engine privacy and all that it entails. Finally, Search Engines are taking some necessary steps to ensure that personal information is kept safe. Many are limiting how long Internet Search Engines keep the data about user, and has gone as far as creating a new feature that users will be able to use to stop Ask from retaining data.

How do search engines track data?

First, how do Search Engines keep track of your information? Well, it’s pretty simple.  If you have a log-in for a search engine like Yahoo or Google and you’re logged in, it will keep track of your search requests based upon that login I.D. Don’t have a login? They still keep track of you too by using your I.P. address. For some, the idea that search requests are being tracked isn’t a big deal, for others who are more concerned about privacy, this is a big deal.

How long is your information stored?

All of the major search engines have recently decreased the amount of time in which they retain your data. Below is a list of how long each search engine will keep track of your search requests:

  • Google: 18–24 months
  • Microsoft: 18–24 months
  • Yahoo: 13 months
  • AOL: 13 months
  • Ask: 18 months

The 18–24 months in which some of these search engines are retaining data seems like a long time to me. A lot can happen in two years time. If Yahoo and AOL can limit theirs to 13 months, I don’t see why others can’t as well.

AskEraser is taking privacy a step further because now they’re allowing users to take control of their privacy with a feature called AskEraser.  It’s not available quite yet, but once it’s released towards the end of the year, users will be able to decide if they want their information retained. Once activated, no information will be kept. Nice, huh?

Why is Search Engine Privacy Important?

Stop and think about some of the things that you search for. Ever search for your own name? What about entering in your social security number to see what comes up or your home address? While you may not realize it, you could be searching for things that would easily identify you. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want a Hacker getting their hands on my information.  There’s also the issue of subpoenas and how authorities are trying to gain access to search engine information to use in court.

As it stands, there are no set standards in the search industry which set-forth how long information can be retained. Microsoft and are asking that everybody join together to come up with standards that would be used throughout the industry. This, I believe, would be a big step in search engine privacy if the same rules were followed by everybody.

Source: AP and (Thanks for the tip Cory!)