Yahoo!’s (YHOO) Privacy Ploy

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Yahoo! (YHOO) plans to make customer search information anonymous after 13 months. Microsoft (MSFT) and IACI’s (IACI) Ask.com are pulling together with advocacy groups to set up systems to safeguard personal data that is collected when people conduct online searches.

As the FT writes the activity "comes as increasing numbers of people are providing personal information to search engines, social networks and other web sites." Or, it may just be a clever way to hamstring Google.

The world’s largest search engine uses data collected from the user to improve search results. They system makes sense. The more it know about the users and his preferences, the better the search results. The search functions from Microsoft and Yahoo! do not work as well, so if they can get government and consumer advocates to attack the collection of data by search companies, they may be able to cut Google’s edge.

The FT sums up the concerns about search companies: "Privacy advocates are concerned that search companies, internet service providers and other groups with access to search queries or browsing histories may exploit such information without users’ knowledge or consent"

Well, yes, that is the essence of search. It is why it work well. It is what makes it an unusually useful tool.

Privacy groups don’t appear to understand that Google is ill-served by crossing the line and using personal data in a manner that violates the privacy of users. That would include allowing other companies to exploit it by soliciting offers for sales. Or beginning to harass users with offers for Google products based on their use profiles. Nothing would do irreparable harm to Google’s core business more quickly. And nothing would drive off users quite as fast.

The internet privacy crowd’s arguments? "A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing".

Douglas A. McIntyre

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