Virante, an internet marketing company, has made an interesting proposal to protect the privacy of search engine users. It suggests that users should be able to opt out of having their search tracked by IP address or cookie by appending "#privacy" to the search query. Here's the release from Virante:
Press Release - Search Engine Privacy Standard Proposed To Protect Users:
New website proposes a new search standard, #privacy, to protect user privacy when performing search engine queries.
/24-7PressRelease/ - DURHAM, NC, October 22, 2006 - With recent data leaks at AOL, governments seeking information from Google on its users, and no simple user privacy solutions available, a standard for empowering user search privacy has finally been proposed. PoundPrivacy.org is spearheading a search privacy revolution with its proposed #privacy standard. Our proposal is that the #privacy flag could be added to the end of searches by users to tell the search engine 'don't track this query.' In response, the search engine should not track the user by IP address or cookie, and the query should not be made public in keyword tools. The website carefully addresses the one exception to this capability - queries in which a crime is likely being committed (like the solicitation of child pornography) should be excluded from the #privacy flag.
PoundPrivacy.org contains an open letter addressed to the major four search engines - Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Ask - requesting that they adopt the #privacy standard. Additionally, the site offers ideas on ways individuals who agree with the standard can support the campaign, including blogging about it, linking to poundprivacy.org, and sending out emails to friends.
About Virante, Inc.
Virante, Inc., is a leading internet marketing solution provider. For more information please visit Virante Web Marketing Solutions or contact us at Email Virante, (919) 459-1088, 1-800-650-0820.
Also check out www.poundprivacy.org.
UPDATE: Adam over at Emergent Chaos thinks this is a silly idea and I must say I agree with just about everything he says, other than the bit about the goat. I'm sure they're not that expensive.
Emergent Chaos: A Very Silly Idea: #privacy, and poundprivacy.org:
"This is silly on a number of levels:
- It propagates the simplistic 'opt-in/opt-out' thinking that the US marketing industry has been promulgating for decades. Look where that thinking has taken us.
- It defaults all queries to opt-in, implied by absence of an opt-out. Privacy should be a default, and the 'right' way to implement this would be with #trackthis.
- It will be prone to user error (typos) and forgetting. It offers no way to say, set a privacy cookie. Even Doubleclick does that.
- Implementation is left as an exercise for the search engines, who are supposed to both magically not track your queries, and magically track them if you might be violating a law. (I say magically because I have some understanding of how web logs actually work.)
- For some remarkable reason, no search engine has actually bothered to comment on the proposal. Certainly, no one has accepted it yet. So why am I blogging about it?
- Really, this idea is one level above an idea I had at the pub last night. Unfortunately, as it turns out, goats are expensive, and probably won't walk on treadmills. It's a good thing I sobered up before setting up a web site."