Report Identifies Beginnings of Competitive Marketplace for Search Privacy
For immediate release:
August 8, 2007
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WASHINGTON -- In a trend that could substantially benefit Internet users, the largest Internet search companies are beginning to aggressively compete with one another to offer stronger privacy protections, according to a report published today by the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT).
Until recently, most of the major Internet search engines kept detailed -- and potentially personally identifiable -- records of their customers' searches for as long as they deemed them useful, which generally meant indefinitely. In a string of recent announcements, the companies announced steps they were taking to delete old user data, strip the personally identifiable information out of stored search records, and, in one case, give users the option to have all of their search records deleted.
CDT's Search Privacy Practices report details and compares the revamped privacy policies of the five largest search providers and offers recommendations for both the industry and lawmakers for how to strengthen privacy protections even further. The report is online at http://www.cdt.org/privacy/20070808searchprivacy.pdf.
"We hope this signals the emergence of a new competitive marketplace for privacy," CDT President Leslie Harris said. "By themselves, these recent changes represent only a small step toward providing users the full range of privacy protections they need and deserve, but if this competitive push continues it can only stand to benefit consumers."
The report acknowledges that there are legitimate reasons for companies to retain some search records for a limited time, but recommends that companies continue to aggressively seek new ways to give users greater control over their personally identifiable data. The report also notes that industry self-regulation -- while vital -- is only one part of a broader privacy solution.
"It's encouraging to see the nation's largest Internet companies taking search privacy seriously," said CDT Deputy Director Ari Schwartz. "Now it's time for Congress to do its part by passing a robust federal law that brings our consumer privacy protections up to the level that users expect."
About CDT: The Center for Democracy and Technology works to promote democratic values and constitutional liberties in the digital age. With expertise in law, technology, and policy, CDT seeks practical solutions to enhance free expression and privacy in global communications technologies. CDT is dedicated to building consensus among all parties interested in the future of the Internet and other new communications media.