Microsoft Joins Ask In Call For Privacy

    July 23, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

Search engines have faced mounting scrutiny over their data retention and privacy practices, and Microsoft and Ask likely wish to head off potential increases in federal scrutiny.

Microsoft Joins Ask In Call For Privacy
Microsoft Joins Ask In Call For Privacy

Few things are more painful for a company than the prospect of heightened levels of federally-mandated paperwork. New laws and bureaucratic oversight represent an expense that companies would rather not incur.

In the best case scenario, businesses convince the government they can police themselves. We have seen this in segments of the financial industry, where breaches of privacy have revealed millions of credit card numbers and other personal information to criminals.

That industry has well-financed lobbyists on Washington’s K Street, which is probably why large scale break-ins at CardSystems Solutions and TJX haven’t led to fast-track legislation to better regulate the handling and security of financial details.

The search industry hasn’t experienced those sorts of breaches. They do have access to information on millions of people, and until recently enjoyed a relatively free hand to keep that data as long as they liked.

The situation changed after an AOL researcher posted thousands of search queries in 2006, all organized by anonymous identifiers. It proved easy to build profiles of each identifier, with quite a few of those profiles rendering a very unflattering picture of the searcher.

Following Google’s announcement of their intent to anonymize search data after a period of time, and to make an essentially useless change to their cookie data, Microsoft and Ask want to encourage a dialogue on “development of these principles” with regards to privacy protection.

Dialogue, from the same companies that rolled over to federal subpoenas for search data a couple of years ago. The time for talk has passed. Anyone in search who seriously wants to protect the privacy of their users needs to be deleting search data after a period of time, in compliance with whatever retention periods exist as mandated by law.

Instead of dialogue, how about placing a shell script that wipes out log files on the relevant servers on an ongoing basis as time passes? That has to be an easier and faster solution than just talking about it.