Google shamed by Low Countries search

Privacy Theatre upstaged


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? ®

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Google has more reasons why it doesn't like antitrust law that affects Google
    It'll ruin Gmail, claims web ads giant

    Google has a fresh list of reasons why it opposes tech antitrust legislation making its way through Congress but, like others who've expressed discontent, the ad giant's complaints leave out mention of portions of the proposed law that address said gripes.

    The law bill in question is S.2992, the Senate version of the American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA), which is closer than ever to getting votes in the House and Senate, which could see it advanced to President Biden's desk.

    AICOA prohibits tech companies above a certain size from favoring their own products and services over their competitors. It applies to businesses considered "critical trading partners," meaning the company controls access to a platform through which business users reach their customers. Google, Apple, Amazon, and Meta in one way or another seemingly fall under the scope of this US legislation. 

    Continue reading
  • Brave Search leaves beta, offers Goggles for filtering, personalizing results
    Freedom or echo chamber?

    Brave Software, maker of a privacy-oriented browser, on Wednesday said its surging search service has exited beta testing while its Goggles search personalization system has entered beta testing.

    Brave Search, which debuted a year ago, has received 2.5 billion search queries since then, apparently, and based on current monthly totals is expected to handle twice as many over the next year. The search service is available in the Brave browser and in other browsers by visiting search.brave.com.

    "Since launching one year ago, Brave Search has prioritized independence and innovation in order to give users the privacy they deserve," wrote Josep Pujol, chief of search at Brave. "The web is changing, and our incredible growth shows that there is demand for a new player that puts users first."

    Continue reading
  • Abortion rights: US senators seek ban on sale of health location data
    With Supreme Court set to overturn Roe v Wade, privacy is key

    A group of senators wants to make it illegal for data brokers to sell sensitive location and health information of individuals' medical treatment.

    A bill filed this week by five senators, led by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), comes in anticipation the Supreme Court's upcoming ruling that could overturn the 49-year-old Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing access to abortion for women in the US.

    The worry is that if the Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade – as is anticipated following the leak in May of a majority draft ruling authored by Justice Samuel Alito – such sensitive data can be used against women.

    Continue reading
  • Makers of ad blockers and browser privacy extensions fear the end is near
    Overhaul of Chrome add-ons set for January, Google says it's for all our own good

    Special report Seven months from now, assuming all goes as planned, Google Chrome will drop support for its legacy extension platform, known as Manifest v2 (Mv2). This is significant if you use a browser extension to, for instance, filter out certain kinds of content and safeguard your privacy.

    Google's Chrome Web Store is supposed to stop accepting Mv2 extension submissions sometime this month. As of January 2023, Chrome will stop running extensions created using Mv2, with limited exceptions for enterprise versions of Chrome operating under corporate policy. And by June 2023, even enterprise versions of Chrome will prevent Mv2 extensions from running.

    The anticipated result will be fewer extensions and less innovation, according to several extension developers.

    Continue reading
  • I was fired for blowing the whistle on cult's status in Google unit, says contractor
    The internet giant, a doomsday religious sect, and a lawsuit in Silicon Valley

    A former Google video producer has sued the internet giant alleging he was unfairly fired for blowing the whistle on a religious sect that had all but taken over his business unit. 

    The lawsuit demands a jury trial and financial restitution for "religious discrimination, wrongful termination, retaliation and related causes of action." It alleges Peter Lubbers, director of the Google Developer Studio (GDS) film group in which 34-year-old plaintiff Kevin Lloyd worked, is not only a member of The Fellowship of Friends, the exec was influential in growing the studio into a team that, in essence, funneled money back to the fellowship.

    In his complaint [PDF], filed in a California Superior Court in Silicon Valley, Lloyd lays down a case that he was fired for expressing concerns over the fellowship's influence at Google, specifically in the GDS. When these concerns were reported to a manager, Lloyd was told to drop the issue or risk losing his job, it is claimed. 

    Continue reading
  • It's a crime to use Google Analytics, watchdog tells Italian website
    Because data flows into the United States, not because of that user interface

    Updated Another kicking has been leveled at American tech giants by EU regulators as Italy's data protection authority ruled against transfers of data to the US using Google Analytics.

    The ruling by the Garante was made yesterday as regulators took a close look at a website operator who was using Google Analytics. The regulators found that the site collected all manner of information.

    So far, so normal. Google Analytics is commonly used by websites to analyze traffic. Others exist, but Google's is very much the big beast. It also performs its analysis in the USA, which is what EU regulators have taken exception to. The place is, after all, "a country without an adequate level of data protection," according to the regulator.

    Continue reading
  • End of the road for biz living off free G Suite legacy edition
    Firms accustomed to freebies miffed that web giant's largess doesn't last

    After offering free G Suite apps for more than a decade, Google next week plans to discontinue its legacy service – which hasn't been offered to new customers since 2012 – and force business users to transition to a paid subscription for the service's successor, Google Workspace.

    "For businesses, the G Suite legacy free edition will no longer be available after June 27, 2022," Google explains in its support document. "Your account will be automatically transitioned to a paid Google Workspace subscription where we continue to deliver new capabilities to help businesses transform the way they work."

    Small business owners who have relied on the G Suite legacy free edition aren't thrilled that they will have to pay for Workspace or migrate to a rival like Microsoft, which happens to be actively encouraging defectors. As noted by The New York Times on Monday, the approaching deadline has elicited complaints from small firms that bet on Google's cloud productivity apps in the 2006-2012 period and have enjoyed the lack of billing since then.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022