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[ NNSquad ] "Private: some search engines make money by not tracking users" (+ my comments)

"Private: some search engines make money by not tracking users" (+ my comments)
http://j.mp/K94xXw  (This message on Google+)

 - - -

http://j.mp/K8ZcPV  (ars technica)

    However, a March 2012 study from the Pew Internet and American Life
    Project found that two-thirds of Americans view a personalized search
    as a "bad thing," with 73 percent of those surveyed saying that they
    were "not OK" with personalized searches on privacy grounds. Another
    recent poll of California voters recently reached similar results, as
    "78 percent of voters-including 71 percent of voters age 18-29-said
    the collection of personal information online is an invasion of

 - - -

My Comments:

It's depressing how so much confusion and FUD (fear, uncertainty,
doubt) regarding ad personalization have been leveraged into poll
questions that do little more than indicate how uninformed most Web
users are about how these systems work -- and why they get to use most
of them without charge.  The major players in the ad serving networks
bend over backwards to use cookies that don't link to personal
information, provide user dashboards for personalization control and
disabling -- but still get bashed by arguments that don't really
recognize the difference between a session cookie and an Oreo.

You'll note that these polls virtually never define what "tracking"
even means in any given context.  It sounds ominous -- but without a
rigorous definition, it's meaningless.  There also seems to be a
tendency for these polls to present their questions in ways that lead
people to think that the alternative to personalization is no ads at
all, rather than random ads in their place.  If you ask people
separately if they prefer ads that are relevant to them vs. random
ads, they tend to choose the former -- not random advertisements.

As for sites like DuckDuckGo ... I get asked about them frequently.
If you feel that they provide what you need, fine.  It's your choice.
See, there's no monopoly in search!  But all the talk about not
logging IP addresses and such is gobbledegook.  

If there's some reason that the government wants to know what you're
doing on DuckDuckGo or wherever, they can show up with a National
Security Letter and demand that any site start logging IP data and
more -- and secretly.  Some sites may try fight this.  Others won't.

But in the more general case, the logging of IP addresses by
individual sites isn't going to matter anyway.  Perhaps of more
interest is what sort of logging major ISPs do of their subscribers.
After all, they have access to every single byte of our Internet
traffic that's in the clear for most of us, and traffic data for the
encrypted materials.

Increasingly, the focus on ad personalization and associated cookies
is a diversion from genuine privacy concerns, including the push for
(unacceptable in its current form) CISPA cybersecurity legislation.  
A new survey shows Americans more worried about cybersecurity than
terrorism -- demonstrating how well the cybersecurity industry is
spreading their own misinformation.  I'll let you in on a little
secret.  If I were you, I'd be much more concerned about all the
fissile material and unemployed nuclear talent floating around the

But hey, there's billions to be made scaring people about cybersecurity,
and if turning harmless ad personalization into public enemy number
one helps to keep people worried about Google and Bing, rather than
real privacy issues, you have to admit that the purveyors of FUD
have done their jobs effectively at least.

Lauren Weinstein (lauren@vortex.com): http://www.vortex.com/lauren 
Co-Founder: People For Internet Responsibility: http://www.pfir.org 
 - Data Wisdom Explorers League: http://www.dwel.org
 - Network Neutrality Squad: http://www.nnsquad.org 
 - Global Coalition for Transparent Internet Performance: http://www.gctip.org
 - PRIVACY Forum: http://www.vortex.com 
Member: ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
Lauren's Blog: http://lauren.vortex.com
Google+: http://vortex.com/g+lauren / Twitter: http://vortex.com/t-lauren 
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800 / Skype: vortex.com
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