Based on the survey of five leading search engines conducted by CNet News, Ask.com turns out to be the most protective of the privacy of the users saying that it won’t record what users are searching on its search engines. In the said survey, representatives from the five search engines were given the following eight questions relating to how the search engines manage the issue on user privacy:
- What search-related data–including IP addresses, cookie IDs, user identities, and search terms–do you retain?
- How long do you retain those data?
- If you retain data for a limited period of time, is it completely deleted (in such a way that the data and backups cannot be recovered, even under court order) or is it anonymized instead?
- If the data are anonymized, exactly how do you do this?
- Do you do behavioral targeting, meaning showing ads to users based on their behavior across multiple queries?
- If you do, is there a way for users to opt out of behavioral targeting?
- Do you use knowledge about your users (such as ZIP code, e-mail address, gender, or birth date) obtained through user registration to deliver targeted ads on your search engine?
- Do you use knowledge about the identities of your users’ instant messaging or e-mail correspondents when using those services, or the contents of those communications, to deliver targeted ads on your search engine?
The representatives of the five search engines who answered the survey were:
- Amy Call for AOL
- Nicholas Graham for Ask.com
- Victoria Grand for Google
- Peter Cullen for Microsoft
- Jim Cullinan for Yahoo
The survey also found out that Ask.com and Google avoids behavioral targeting for its paid advertisements, while Microsoft beats all rivals in terms of anonymizing users’ data.
You may read the full report on search engines on privacy over at the CNet News site.