Ixquick, a meta search engine who claims that their search results are more comprehensive and more accurate than many other search engines out there, has completely stopped recording users’ IP addresses. This new policy further highlights their commitment to privacy.
Privacy on the Internet is becoming more of a big deal, especially because many search engines are continuing to record your IP address so that your searches are more “personalized”. Search engines such as Google appear to be headed in this direction, saving your data so that they can “personalize” your search results, which they claim brings us better search results.
While you are searching the internet, many search engines also register the time of your searches, the terms you used, the sites you visited and your IP address. In many cases this IP address makes it possible to trace the computer, and in turn the household, that carried out the search.
Previously, the Ixquick search engine deleted the privacy details of its users within 48 hours. As of today – Data Protection Day 2009 – IP addresses are not recorded at all anymore. The technical need to store IP addresses for 48 hours – blocking automated use of Ixquick’s servers – has been overcome by recent technological developments.
Ixquick enhances your privacy by offering a secure connection using the https protocol which prevents eavesdropping on Ixquick users and expects to launch a so-called “proxy” service in the next few months that makes it possible to browse the Internet in full anonymity.
AOL Search Data Fiasco
As you might recall, data from the AOL search engine was made public (on purpose through their research arm) in 2006. AOL actually released three months’ worth of aggregated search data from 650,000 of its users, publishing all the details in an online database.
According to a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AOL_search_data_scandal”>Wikipedia, “On August 4, 2006, AOL Research, headed by Dr. Abdur Chowdhury, released a compressed text file on one of its websites containing twenty million search keywords for over 650,000 users over a 3-month period, intended for research purposes. AOL pulled the file from public access by the 7th, but not before it had been mirrored and distributed on the Internet.
While none of the AOL records on the file are personally identifiable per se, certain keywords contain personally identifiable information by means of the user typing in their own name (ego-searching), as well as their address, social security number or by other means. Each user is identified on this list by a unique sequential key, which enables the compilation of a user’s search history. The New York Times was able to locate an individual from the released and anonymized search records by cross referencing them with phonebooks or other public records. Consequently, the ethical implications of using this data for research are under debate.
AOL acknowledged it was a mistake and removed the data, although the files can still be downloaded from mirror sites. Additionally, several searchable databases of the report also exist on the internet.”
This AOL database is still searchable from various sites. Just enter a search query and you will find out who searched for it. Then, click on the User ID and you will see what else they searched for. This data may be helpful for keyword research purposes (marketing purposes), but it’s not very private: the data is still available to the public over 2 years later.