Feeds

Google shamed by Low Countries search

Privacy Theatre upstaged

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

As Google and Yahoo! play Privacy Theatre, at least one search engine has realized your personal data is not a toy.

Today - aka Data Privacy Day 2009 - Netherlands-based search engine Ixquick told the world it will no longer log user IPs. In the past, the privacy-obsessed outfit stored IP addresses for only 48 hours, but it has now shunned the practice entirely.

"We're the only major search engine in the Internet that can make that promise," reads a canned statement from Ixquick CEO Robert Beens. "We've always been a privacy-friendly company, but now we're seriously upping the ante. We feel people have a fundamental right to privacy and we're delivering on our promise to provide it."

In September Google said it would anonymize user search data after 9 months, and last month Yahoo! said it would anonymize after six. But anonymize is a meaningless word.

In Yahoo!'s world, it means the company will delete the final octet of the user's IP, while running Yahoo! IDs and cookie identifiers through a one-way hash. And in Google's world, it means changing "some of" the bits in an IP. Full stop.

In each case, restoring user data isn't beyond the realm of possibility. And in Google's case, it's trivial.

Google may vanish certain IP bits on nine-month-old search queries. But those bits will remain on newer queries - and both sets of queries will carry the same cookie data. Recovering the missing bits on older queries wouldn't be difficult - to say the least.

Plus, Google has yet to roll out its nine-month anonymization. Not that this matters to people who fail to realize they can delete their own cookies - i.e., most of the planet.

But as Google and Yahoo! stop well short of true anonymization - consumed by targeted-ad lust and who knows what else - Ixquick has come awfully close. The Dutch search engine uses two cookies, but one expires after 90 days and the other expires at the end of each search session.

Back in November, when Google admitted to tracking your sneezes, privacy advocate/radio talk show host Dr. Katherine Albrecht quit using the world's largest search engine. And now, she uses Ixquick. She also, well, handles their US PR.

We won't repeat the praise she heaped on her own employers. But you can trust her take on the Mountain View Chocolate Factory. "Google can make all the promises it wants about not sharing data with the government and marketers," she says. "But there will come a day when they will be pressured into releasing user data - through subpoenas, through court cases."

Or perhaps they already have. How many National Security Letters, we ask, have landed on Google's doorstep? ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Apple promises to lift Curse of the Drained iPhone 5 Battery
Have you tried turning it off and...? Never mind, here's a replacement
Mozilla's 'Tiles' ads debut in new Firefox nightlies
You can try turning them off and on again
Linux turns 23 and Linus Torvalds celebrates as only he can
No, not with swearing, but by controlling the release cycle
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
This is how I set about making a fortune with my own startup
Would you leave your well-paid job to chase your dream?
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.