Privacy and web search history

My last post, why do search engines store search history, looked at why search history is offered. This post examines the connection between privacy and search history.

Privacy definitions*

  • Right to be left alone
  • Limited access to the self
  • Secrecy
  • Control over personal information
  • Personhood
  • Intimacy

Since searches can be a personal experience having control over your search history may invade privacy. If you delete something from your search history is this permanently deleted from all your records? This is a grey area for privacy.

Privacy on a keyboard

Privacy written on keyboard keys. From g4ll4is

Sharing information

Allmer illustrated that privacy can be easily controlled by not sharing information and keeping it to yourself. Does a search history share your information with a search engine? Where else is this information stored? Is it matched to a personalised user profile?

Search history and cookies, for instance, collectively can build a lot of data, and thus breach privacy, because addresses and clicktrails can be monitored. We are a long way from finding out what information is stored and for what precise purpose. However, it is important to note that some entities are now standing up to large companies (for example Google and the European Union) which means that we are slowly making privacy progress.

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References

  1. Allmer, T. (2011) A critical contribution to theoretical foundations of privacy studies. Journal of Information, Communication Ethics in Society. 9(2) 83–101
  2. Frommkin, M. (2000) The death of privacy? Stanford Law Review. 52(5) pp. 1461–1543
  3. *Solove, D.J. (2002) Conceptualizing privacy. California Law Review. 90(4) pp. 1087–1155
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