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google doesn't collect personally identifyable information. Yahoo for it's mail or wat-ever services ask for your name and zipcode and everything you can think of..business...sometimes, annual salary..etc..just for a mail addy @ yahoo..wonder how they use the information?
Where did the privacy fighters go?
what could possibly be gained by tracking search queries to a human being?
Ok, I'm sick of hearing this line of reasoning so I have to object. This is definitely the *wrong* reason to defend Google in this case. What matters is that some people find their query history to be extremely personal. And I think *most* people would if they thought about it hard enough.
I certainly do. Over time I've typed thousands of queries into Google. While many individual queries were whimsical or unrelated to what I was working on at the time, the set of all queries I've made, seen from afar, gives a very crisp picture of my interests, my geographical location, my friends, my sexuality, etc. The right data mining software could probably look at this history and tell me more about myself than I already know. I can think of nothing more personal that exists in electronic form except possibly my email. Even my entire web browsing history doesn't come close to containing the information that's in all those words.
So imagine if evey single query *you've* ever made to Google were listed and neatly summarized by category in a single document that was distributed to potential employers, romantic prospects, marketers, etc. Sure that's a ridiculous and paranoid prospect -- but NOT because it's not possible or not "interesting" to enough of these people. If *you* were one of these people, wouldn't you be curious? Wouldn't you pay, if you could?
I noticed Sergey Brin also shrugs off the usefulness of query profiles in that SearchEngineWatch article ("The information it has really isn't that useful"..."There's not that much you can necessarily infer from them.") That bothers me. He knows perfectly well how valuable query data is, or could be, to any number of organizations. He goes on to imply that because of the noise in the data (like his searches for porn, of course), the problem of extracting useful information from query histories is intractable. He should be the last person on earth to believe something like that.
my first impression is that us webmasters would have a much greater grasp of the privacy issue simply because of our involvement with the web and BECAUSE WE WOULD ACTUALLY KNOW WHAT A COOKIE IS
I agree. It's a mystery. You have webmasters saying, "It's just a number, it doesn't say anything about you." Tell that to a holocaust survivor with a number on their arm. Germany used IBM punch cards and hundreds of mechanical sorters, and had the entire population scoped out after a series of very comprehesive censuses. They also keyed in birth and marriage records from little country churches. It was all done in binary form on IBM punch cards, with religion, ancestors, and so on, starting in the early 1930s. By the time they started rounding up undesirables, they knew exactly who they wanted, and where they lived, and why they wanted them. Read all about it in IBM and the Holocaust by Edwin Black (Crown, 2001).
i'm not a simple person, but i just don't 'get' the gripe here. i loathe an intrusive gov't, but 35 year cookies (or even 100 year cookies) and session id's at a search engine just seem to be irrational perceptions of evil that allow some people play the victim role, or scare other people for absolutely no reason.
No, you don't get it. The ID number in the cookie is not a session ID. It's a permanent ID that is saved to disk and read every time you access Google, whether for a search or when the toolbar phones home. If you have an ever-changing IP number, the cookie ID can tie them all together as coming from a single browser. The only way to change this ID number is to dump Google's cookie by deleting it, so that Google can't find their cookie and has to issue a fresh one with a new ID number. If Google could tatoo this number on your arm, they probably would. That would fix the problem they have with people like me who erase their Google cookies several times a day.