Wednesday, August 09, 2006

TOPIC: Privacy, the AOL Blunder and Googling?
From The Mercury News...
Although he was alarmed by AOL's haphazard release of its subscribers' online search requests, Google Inc. CEO Eric Schmidt said Wednesday the privacy concerns raised by that breach won't change his company's practice of storing the inquiries made by its users. "We are reasonably satisfied ... that this sort of thing would not happen at Google, although you can never say never," Schmidt said during an appearance at a major search engine conference in San Jose.

The security breakdown, disclosed earlier this week, publicly exposed about 19 million search requests made by more than 658,000 AOL subscribers during the three months ended in May. Time Warner Inc.'s AOL intended to release the data exclusively to researchers, but the information somehow surfaced on the Internet and was widely copied.

The lapse provided a glaring example of how the information that people enter into search engines can provide a window into their embarrassing - or even potentially incriminating - wishes and desires. The search requests leaked by AOL included inquiries seeking information about murder techniques and nude teenage girls.
Two things -- first and foremost, cancel your AOL subscription. They gave your information away to a researcher, without asking for your consent. They didn't make sure that data was protected. AOL was negligent and is liable. I don't believe in suing just to sue, but I would definitely advise EVERYONE with an AOL account to cancel it now.
Second, if you use ANY search engine(especially Google), you need to switch your web browser to Firefox. Folks, it's time to switch RIGHT NOW. MS Internet Explorer 6 doesn't offer extensions that allow the kind of privacy configuration you need. IE7 is still too unstable to use on your primary browser. Therefore, Firefox is the only good choice.
Next, download G-Zapper, Extended Cookie Manager (or some equivalent) to either block or regularly delete search engine cookies. There is NO good reason for Google (or any SE) to track your searches with a unique identifier. UIDs are used simply to derive income from your personal search queries. IMO, what I search for is NONE of their business (pun intended).

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