Friday, September 14, 2007

Search Privacy: You Are What You Search For - Er What You Eat


The following comes from AltSearchEngines and was used by permission

Search Engines & The Illusion of Privacy


For those who don’t recognize this image, this is the ubiquitous “Cone of Silence” from the TV series “Get Smart.” Whatever was said in the Cone stayed in the Cone! The privacy of your conversation was absolutely guaranteed.

Let’s see, I’ll be 60 years old…

The story from the Associated Press (AP) that greeted me this morning looked like it was just an update on one of the Homeland Security Department’s policies. It said, in part, that instead of keeping risk assessments on you and me for 40 years, they will only keep them for 15 years. What a break! Oh, and by-the-by, you’re not allowed to see your risk assessment, or even why they have one on you.

You are what you eat!

But what really got my attention was that they will try to deduce whether or not we are terrorists by the names of our traveling companions, the number of hotel beds requested, and -wait for it- airline meal choices! That made me wonder, does Homeland Security know what groceries I buy (with my credit card, to make it a little easier for them)? Do they know what cereal I had for breakfast? What do terrorists eat when they travel? I sure don’t want to order that…

Alternative Search Engines

What does any of this have to do with the alternative search engines? That’s what I was wondering. On Mondays at AltSearchEngines we usually feature a different Vertical search category. But after reading this news, search engines that I once thought of as helpful and innocuous, now seemed to be under a black cloud of suspicion.

People Search

Of course People search is often singled out as the bad guy. What do they know about me? Why is Facebook releasing my profile? If I misspell “kiddie horns” when I search for my nephew’s birthday party favors, am I going to be tagged as a pervert? Personal data and issues of privacy will always be at the top of everyone’s concern. The alternative People search engines and the social networking sites will always have that special burden of reassuring their users that it’s safe to use their site. (Or at the very least that the benefits outweigh the risks.)

Likewise the Job search engines. Before today I would have only wondered which one is most likely to find a good position. But in a parallel paranoid universe, what if “something” happened and my boss found that I have been searching for a new job while I was on the clock! After all, didn’t Monster.com have a theft of confidential information?

Health Search? Could a prospective employer surreptitiously buy a list that revealed that I have a preexisting condition and then find another reason not to hire me?

Travel search? Yep, he’s a terrorist. Probably off to training camp.

Search engines that track blogs, discussions, buzz, and other readily available Internet chatter; if I make a joke about renting out my basement to “that guy on the video,” will they “accidentally” fire bomb my house?

Video search? Buy Season Three of “24″ ? Not any more; no way.

Image search. More bad news. Another article, again, in this morning’s paper, said that if they catch a child pornography suspect with a picture of a child on a red blanket, they perform a search for all photos with red blankets. My beach towel is red! I could be looking at 10-15 years of hard time - and lose my beach towel.

Conclusion

We live in a world where every email, every outdoor camera, every Internet search on every search engine, every hotel we book or meal that we order might be captured by someone and used against us. The “Age of Innocence” has run head-on into the “Illusion of Privacy,” and the result is the “Plague of Paranoia” that is sweeping our world like an electronic epidemic.

Now, what would a terrorist order for lunch?

Here’s a bonus, check out this really creative UI for a local restaurant search!

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posted by RealitySEO at 8:57 PM 0 comments