Friday, February 03, 2006

Google Searches

The concern about whether or not Google should keep a cache of all the searches a user performs made me think about records other companies maintain. Department stores, for example, keep extensive databases of our purchases. If a credit card is used, the store database might have the name of the customer, what item was purchased, the date the purchase occurred, etc. Should they have restrictions on the records they keep about their customers and purchases? Or, do consumers realize that purchases shouldn't enjoy the same level of privacy as searches on Google?

4 Comments:

Blogger Brian Bulson said...

I am one that doesn't see the big problem with search records being kept. Just as Scott mentioned, our purchaces and many other aspects of our daily lives are recorded in one way or another, if we don't like that then we could choose not to use credit cards, google, etc. In regards to research, when we go to the library, anyone could stand by the check out counter to see what we check out. With today's technology, a computer could simply record this information, but my point is even before we couldn't expect complete privacy when conducting research. It seems what worries people now is that it is just so much easier to collect this information because we conduct more aspects of our life online, but this is a choice we make.

10:37 AM  
Blogger DSomogy said...

Record keeping on consumer transactions is huge, and it's all about $$$. Credit card companies sell transactional data, and it's used to develop "lifestyle profiles" for direct marketing purposes. One of the most famous (or infamous) companies who brokers in such information is ChoicePoint. ChoicePoint, by the way, was in the news last year for being hacked and copromising many "identities." Also, the government is limited in its ability to collect much of this data directly; so instead it chooses to BUY the data from companies like ChoicePoint.

6:34 AM  
Blogger Syed Ali said...

I am not sure that I see a valid comparison between Google keeping records of search terms and department stores keeping records of customer transactions. The only similarity that I see is that they are both in fact "records." So what? There are valid reasons that department stores keep such records (customer returns, exchanges, keeping track of goods sold in order to keep a better system to track theft, etc.). I guess I would need to hear the valid and necessary reasons to keep a record of search terms.

I also would take issue with brian's assertion that if we don't like companies keeping records then we could just choose not to use credit cards, google, etc. I don't think that is a real option in today's world. It is also assuming a similarity between credit card records (which also are necessary for such reasons as customers disputing charges, etc.) and google's record keeping. I don't see such similarities.

I could be wrong about all this and I would like to hear some other opinions about the necessity in keeping records of online users search terms.

12:50 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

I agree with Syed, department stores have valid reasons for keeping such records - anyone who has ever lost a receipt - has probably been helped by this. Also, alot of stores (more particularly groceries, drug stores) give the customer something in return for their infomrmation - such as discounts, etc. - i.e. Kroger Plus card. At the same time - I do get annoyed by the numerous catalogs I get in the mail from places I've never even heard of - just because they are similar to places I have purchased products from in the past. Somehow though - it seems that such purchases are not as personal as searches for information on the Internet - for example when people are looking for medical or treatment informaiton on the Internet - whereas when you go to a Dr. - your personal information is protected by HIPAA.

12:25 PM  

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