Over at TechCrunch there’s a discussion about the lawsuit against AOL for releasing search data and also challenging their right to store the search histories of AOL users. I’m surprised this took so long because Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc have been storing all of our searches for some time and probably are using that data to adjust the search experience including refinement to advertising and organic results.
It frustrates me (or I should really say it pisses the heck out of me) that 1) Search engines think they should have rights to my search info with no obligation to tell me what they do with my info and 2) there is a lack of concern in the online community about this. John Battelle has been one of the few voices pointing out that this issue is big and getting much bigger, that these privacy issues need a lot more clarification, and that search companies are sneakily dodging many key issues with search and privacy.
Contrary to many comments I read from other onliners, the Government viewing my data is low on my list of privacy concerns because I doubt they’ll choose to or be able to effectively process the information in sinister ways. However it bothers me a LOT that my search “fingerprint” is getting used without my consent, understanding, or permission in an effort by Google, Yahoo, et al to sell me things and adjust my search and internet experiences.
If they want to do that they need to let me know the process they use to do it. If they think sharing that process violates their need for commercial secrecy then…do NOT use my stuff. I never gave you permission, and you should not assume you have my permission. In fact few people even know that Google and Yahoo and MSN store every single one of their searches – Google, Yahoo, MSN cannot reasonably claim they have implied permission for the search storage identified to individual computer level when very few people are even aware they are doing it!