Fallout from Google Privacy Subpoena
News of Google telling the US Government ‘No’ to a Department of Justice Subpoena this week has led to an all out media onslaught of the search engine industry and privacy concerns which is already starting to lead to stock values dropping and Wall Street fears.
After writing a bit about the issue of Yahoo, MSN Search, and Ask Jeeves handing over search data to the Government and Google refusing to do so, it’s led me to believe that there may be more fall out than previously imagined as the media and average Internet user are becoming more aware of what type of data the search engines are tracking.
The story and potential privacy scandal is going to lead of more public knowledge of:
* Personalized search – Search engines tracking search behavior and delivering search results relevant to one’s search profile. Additionally, advertising networks owned by the major search engines are also tracking user behavior, which add to such profiles.
* Search engine advertising – Yahoo, MSN, and Google have all filed patents which target advertising or search results to someone’s search history, the sites they visit, and web behavior.
* Local search – Search engines know where we are, where we live, what businesses we look for, and potentially which stores we shop at.
* Shopping search – Can our shopping search data tell the IRS what we have bought in the past year which they may not know about. What about purchasing or selling high dollar items on eBay which may have flown under the government’s radar?
* Email – Google’s Gmail scans our private email messages to serve advertising to them. Sure, they have addressed privacy concerns as most other webmail services do the same scanning, as do anti-spam and anti-virus programs. Will this lead to a hesitance of users to sign up for free email programs?
Yes, these and many issues have been the concerns of many privacy watchdogs, but this is the first time I’ve seen such coverage on major US news outlets such as Nightline & ABC World News Tonight.
Do not be surprised to see some tracking free Search Engines doing some heavy PR and marketing this week, along with anti-cookie and tracking software as the Department of Justice has opened up a can of worms which is not likely to go away anytime soon.