Every time you use a regular search engine, your search data are recorded.
Your search terms, the time of your visit, the links you choose, your IP address and your User ID cookies all get stored in a database.
The identity profiles that can be constructed from this cloud of information represent modern day gold for marketers.
But government officials, hackers and even criminals also have an interest in getting their hands on your personal search data.
And sooner or later they will…
What could happen ?
Consider the following story:
In August 2006, the online world was jarred by the AOL privacy scandal:
AOL released three months’ worth of aggregated search data from 650,000 of its users, publishing all the details in an online database. This database is still searchable. It is an absolute eye-opener to see the potential for privacy nightmares.
—>Enter a “Search Keyword” and find who searched for it
—>Then click on a “User ID” to find what else this user searched for
Shocked? You are not alone.
When we search, we share our most private thoughts with our computers.
These private thoughts should be safe.
So what is Ixquick?
Ixquick (www.ixquick.com) is a powerful meta-search engine, founded in New York and launched on the Web in 1998.
Ixquick.com is owned by Surfboard Holding BV, a Dutch company that is privately held.
It’s goal is delivering the most relevant search results in the best possible privacy to its users.
Commercialization only takes place through the use of – clearly labelled – sponsored results.
Surfboard Holding has been profitable since 2002.
|You have a right to privacy.|
|Your search data should never fall into the wrong hands.|
|The only real solution is deleting your data.|
|We delete our users’ privacy data within 48 hrs.|
|We are the first and only search engine to do so.|
|Our initiative is receiving an overwhelmingly positive response!|
Ixquick offers you the best results in full privacy!
Certified Secure, a leading Certification Authority, has certified Ixquick’s Privacy procedures. The CS Privacy Certificate has been awarded after an extensive audit. It safeguards your Privacy!
Recent articles on Ixquick:
Protecting yourself from search engines
AOL drops the ball on user privacy
Keep Your Internet Searches Private
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
Protect your privacy when searching online
ZDNet UK, UK
AOL security breach puts Web on notice
Christian Science Monitor
How to Digitally Hide (Somewhat) in Plain Sight
New York Times, United States
Guardian Unlimited, UK
Has the time finally come to stop using Google?
Guardian Unlimited, UK
The London Times Online
London Times Online, UK
Other Articles of Interest:
A Race to the Bottom: Privacy Ranking of Internet Service Companies
When companies have the ability to combine data from different resources or services,
the privacy consequences become even more staggering:
They know all about you.
List of Google services:
Google listening to your every move.
Ixquick’s Privacy Q&A:
Q: Why did Ixquick decide to take this leap?
A: Beyond striving to offer our users the best Web search results possible, we also feel strongly about safeguarding their privacy. With other search engines, millions of law abiding citizens world wide expose themselves to serious invasions of privacy while performing innocuous searches across the internet.
We feel the right to privacy is a very important right, worth defending.
These were the principles that guided Ixquick’s decision.
Q: Has Ixquick ever data mined its search data for commercial use?
A: In its history, Ixquick has never used IP addresses and Unique ID cookies for anything other than tracking its own statistics and improving our site’s performance . Unlike most of our competitors, we are an independent company and unable to combine user data with other services we offer. As such, these records have no commercial value to us.
Q: How does Ixquick make use of its logfiles?
A: As a search engine, we log data for maintenance purposes like tracking site performance and statistics. These logs include users’ IP addresses, which we need to determine whether specific users are abusing our engine. The user related personal data however are deleted from the logfiles within a maximum of 48 hours, often sooner.
Q: Why does Ixquick store user related data for 48 hours?
A: This is done for diagnostic and maintenance purposes. For example, if a site is abusing our servers and causing server overloads, our logfiles enable us to trace and block the particular IP address responsible for the abuse.
Q: How does Ixquick make sure it doesn’t keep user related data in its systems?
A: IP addresses: Ixquick runs specific software that identifies the date of each logfile. The software then rewrites logfiles more than 48 hrs old, removing users’ IP addresses on a daily basis. When this is done the original logfile is overwritten by the new file. This is an automatic process without human intervention.
Cookies: 1. As of June 6th, 2006, Ixquick users are no longer assigned Unique ID cookies. Ixquick distributes a cookie that is only used to remember the search engine settings, stored on the local PC. 2. Users who used Ixquick before June 6th, 2006 may have had Unique ID cookies installed on their PC. When these users search again with Ixquick, the Ixquick server will automatically replace the old Unique ID cookie with a new, anonymous version.
Q: Why is it so important to delete both the IP address and the User ID cookie?
A: People can either have a static IP address or a dynamic IP address that changes from day to day. If they have a static IP address, one can reconstruct their search history with just that IP address. If they have a dynamic IP address one can reconstruct their search history for today but not for yesterday. The user’s ISP, however, can provide the missing link between the various IP addresses. The Unique user ID can also be used to tie the different IP addresses together.
So the IP address is unique to the specific computer or router, but may change from day to day. The User ID is unique for one specific search engine or website.
The combination of the both delivers extensive possibilities to track users’ behavior, especially for internet conglomerates with multiple services where the users information can be combined.
Tracking within a site is typically done with the aim of producing usage statistics, while tracking across sites with so-called third party cookies, is typically done by advertising companies to produce anonymous user profiles. These profiles are then used to target advertising (deciding which advertising image to show) based on the user’s profile. But advertising companies are just one of many groups that may take an interest in user profiles. Ixquick deletes both the IP address and the User ID cookie.
Q: How can I learn more about the privacy issues with other search engines?
Q: Why are other search engines not yet following Ixquick’s lead?
A: After the AOL story some search engines quickly commented they will not give up recording the privacy data of its users.
Ixquick’s competitors are generally very large and often publicly owned search engines.Such a large share of these company’s valuations is based on their ability to mine data from their users, they cannot afford to give the practice up. Commercial pressures to increase effectiveness of advertising and other commercial services, and the profit opportunities that arise by combining data collected across multiple services will ultimately drive these companies to make even greater impositions on your privacy.
Q: Where can I find more background information on these privacy issues?
A: The web sites of various privacy organisations are a great starting point for locating an abundance of background information on this subject.
Q: What is Ixquick’s view for the near future when it comes to privacy?
A: We see an increasing threat to online privacy in general and search engine users’ privacy in particular. Ad networks, search engines and government agencies have all recently stepped up their efforts to exploit private search data. There is only one real solution to this problem: deleting the data. Only data that is deleted is safe from privacy breaches.
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