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Will google share your searches?

December 11, 2007

Chances are, you’ve heard about Facebook and their troubles with privacy. Beacon launched, and was a little too creepy for your average person.

It might actually have some real utility around this time of year for the person who is really hard to buy for. Let’s say, for example, that my sister-in-law, who is the hardest person in the world to buy for®, goes to the gap.com and buys a pair of pants. We’re both on Facebook, so beacon would place that information on my news feed. (That’s technical talk for Facebook will tell me she bought the pants). A few clicks of the mouse, and I’ve bought her a shirt that the Gap says goes with her pants.

That’s a utility.

Facebook apologizes

The problem with the way Facebook launched beacon was they did it without transparency. People didn’t know how to, or if they could opt out.

As you saw from the title, this post is about google sharing your data. Easily the biggest owner of our online information is Google. Google keeps track of all your searches. And most people use Google to search. Ergo, at a certain point, a critical mass of patterns will emerge to give information about me that we marketers could use. The thing is though, most people probably never thought their searches had any value.

Clearly, if they didn’t, Google wouldn’t track ’em.

Well, ask.com just got a head of the privacy curve offering an opt out. Here’s the info from ask.com’s site:

“At Ask.com, we believe that you as a user should have the power to control the usage of your search history. When enabled, AskEraser will completely delete your search queries and data from Ask.com servers, including: your IP address, User ID and Session ID cookies, as well as the complete text of your search query–all within a matter of hours.”

At a time when Facebook is in the news for not offering an opt-out, Ask.com’s timing is perfect. The question is, can they turn this feature on Google. Will people care? More importantly, would media people love to see what people are searching for?

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