Tag: search_engine

The myth of privacy

You do know that every search term you type into a search engine is saved by the search engine, don’t you? That time you searched for porn, or an ex boy/girlfriend, or information about an illness you thought you might have – all saved by the search engine.

This practice was brought sharply into focus when AOL purposefully posted 3 months of search data on the Internet. Usernames were replaced with numbers but it was still possible to identify some of the searchers. The New York Times runs a story today about a Ms Thelma Arnold, a 62 year old living in Lilburn, Georgia. Ms Arnold was searcher number 4417749 in AOL’s records but was readily identifiable based on her searches for “numb fingersâ€?, “60 single menâ€?, “dog that urinates on everythingâ€?, “landscapers in Lilburn, Ga,â€? several people with the last name Arnold and “homes sold in shadow lake subdivision gwinnett county georgia.â€?

Marketers are going to have a ball with all this info!

Someone has helpfully taken a copy of the data and put a web interface on it to make it easier to query!

Michael Geist said it best when he said:

The article provides a powerful illustration not only of the severity of the AOL mistake (which remains online for all to see), but of why search companies simply should not be retaining this data for any significant period of time. The public privacy risks, whether self-inflicted, from hackers, or via law enforcement fishing expeditions, outweigh the private commercial benefits.

While Ms Arnold is quoted in the New York times article as saying

My goodness, it’s my whole personal life, I had no idea somebody was looking over my shoulder… We all have a right to privacy, Nobody should have found this all out.

You haven’t searched for anything you wouldn’t want people to know about recently, have you?

Salim Ismail interview coming up

I will be interviewing Salim Ismail, chairman & co-founder of PubSub in the next couple of days. Pubsub is a blog search engine or as Salim likes to say a “matching engine”.

I was amazed to learn, from talking to Salim here at the les Blogs 2.0 conference, that Salim lived and worked in Cork for around a year and Salim is another fan of Murphy’s stout!

If you have any questions you’d like me to ask Salim – please leave them in the comments

Developments in search

Two search announcements overnight:

The Yahoo! blog search engine is disappointing – from a user interface point of view – the blog search results are hidden away in a sidebar of the main results on the right hand side of the page.
This is the part of many web pages which contains ads and consequently is ignored subconsciously by most users. Also, on a couple of searches I performed on the site, the results are poor compared to its competitors and I note that Scoble had a similar experience.

Chris Pirillo’s Gada.be, on the other hand, is an interesting new take on search. It gives the search string in the domain – so a search for nano becomes http://nano.gada.be/ and a search for iPod Nano becomes http://ipod-nano.gada.be/. Also, amazingly if you add /opml onto the end of the domain name (i.e. http://ipod-nano.gada.be/opml) you are presented with an opml feed for the search which can be imported in to most RSS readers. Gada.be is also optimised for mobile devices which will be more and more important as PDA’s and mobile phones converge.

This is something Scoble has been asking for for some time now!

Lisa Vaas of eWeek has an excellent review of Gada.be, if you want to know more about it, I suggest taking a look at that.