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Calif. Initiative To Regulate Search Engines? 56

Lauren Weinstein writes to tell us about CIFIP, the California Initiative For Internet Privacy — his attempt to get search engines off the dime on questions such as how long they retain search data. The initiative aims to explore "cooperative and/or legislative approaches to dealing with search engine and other Internet privacy issues, including a possible California initiative for the 2008 ballot." There is a public discussion list.
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Calif. Initiative To Regulate Search Engines?

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  • by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Monday October 02, 2006 @07:28AM (#16275017)
    You give up this data willingly.

    Within the context of applicable laws. The laws we define.

    You can apply your argument to pretty much everything - when you send a parcel via UPS, when you make a telephone call, when you give your details to a company to purchase something. Laws apply which protect us from misuse of our personal information.

    If you choose to tell someone something voluntarily you cannot expect them to forget about it when you think they should.

    Rubbish. An organisation can use your personal information within the bounds set by applicable laws.
  • by finkployd ( 12902 ) * on Monday October 02, 2006 @07:56AM (#16275161) Homepage
    (1) The identity can sometimes (often?) be figured out by going through all of the searches. This is basically what all of the uproar over the AOL snafu was all about

    (2) The US government wants this data to be saved and tied to users in case they need to get it (via a court order I'm sure *snicker*). If you are against this you must love the terrorists and child porn.

    (3) This data represents significant intellectual property of the search engines. Remember, you are NOT their customer, you are their product. The advertisers are their customers. As their product, they want to collect and retain as much as they can about you, this makes their product more valuble.

    Basically, the search companies and government are not going to want to do this, only the "product". And if the data is all tied to a single IP (or long term cookie like google's), encrypted or not it is possibly still traceable.

    Part of the problem is the weird notion that all internet searches should be completely anonymous, I don't know where that came from.

  • by jacquesm ( 154384 ) <j&ww,com> on Monday October 02, 2006 @08:04AM (#16275205) Homepage
    the main reason for keeping searches anonymous is that you have no idea where that data will end up. You've looked up something about aids recently ? Your insurance just went up.

    Tried to find out how to make TNT ? Off to Guantamo bay with you.

    Finding out about the origins and local chapter of the KKK ? Better buy a new set of windows.

    and so on.

    Search queries are a private thing because like calling the help hot line for being suicidal if you can not guarantee privacy you end up causing real life damage.

    Marketeers wet dreams and bottom lines only go so far, it's perfectly possible to run a search engine without profiling and still make a buck.

    Maybe not quite as many bucks, and maybe you'd have to work a little harder to 'monetize' but to unconditionally hold hostage an individuals entire search history for an indefinite amount of time is a serious breach of privacy.

    It would be like the phone company keeping a record of all your CONVERSATIONS, not just the numbers that you have dialled.
  • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Monday October 02, 2006 @10:07AM (#16276257)
    This post is a little bit fanboyish, but Google does pretty well, so let's give them due consideration.

    Their terms of service are clear and fairly concise:

    http://www.google.com/intl/en/terms_of_service.htm l [google.com]

    They attempt to explain how your interactions with their services seperately from their actual privacy policy. The privacy highlights document is somewhat shorter than the actual policy, but neither is terribly long, and both are clearly written:

    http://www.google.com/privacy.html [google.com]
    http://www.google.com/privacypolicy.html#informati on [google.com]

    They also include a link to what exactly they are tracking in their logs, that explains what information the actual text of the log represents:

    http://www.google.com/privacy_faq.html#serverlogs [google.com]

    These documents aren't hard to find. I'm not sure what more google should be doing to communicate with their users. A link advertising all this stuff on the front page might be nice, but 'About Google' isn't exactly obfuscated.

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