Monday, January 30, 2006

Google Stories get Better and Better

Boing Boing link to a report on the implications of search engines - including Google - automatically recording IP address of searchers.

"Up until now, I’ve only discussed the implications of having an IP address. The situation gets much much worse when you start using it. Because every bit of network traffic you use is marked with your IP address, it can be used to link all of those disparate transactions together. Despite these possible correlations, not one of the major search engines considers your IP address to be personally identifiable information. "

Of course in Europe we have DP law and an IP address would be personally identifying data and therefore protected by the Data Protection Principles, including limitation of data collection by purpose and time of retention, right? Wrong. A recent survey by the Information Comissioner's office in the UK found huge disparities across Europe as to whether an IP address would ALWAYS or even sometimes be treated as personal data.

Plus of course the new data retention rules that are coming in will mandate data retention of certain items for telcos and ISPs. Will these rules apply to search engines? I guess we have to wait for the detail of national implementations of the Data Retention Directive.

Meanwhile the media are beginning to report not only people who prefer to be unGoogleable but ways of anonymising your Google searches, so they cannot subsequently be subpoenaed by governments. The Revenge of the Digerati??

Finally, deep into the further reaches of conspiracy theories re privacy and web-bugging we have this interesting comment from the resposnses to the IP article above.

"I don’t have any ads on the site, I do have embedded Flickr pictures. So, here’s a question - is Flickr just a cover for a huge web bug operation used to track visits to sites that have embedded Flickr pictures, or is that being overly paranoid? "

Flickr is a site where users can post photos they've taken and embed them in their web pages - they can then be viewed, uploaded etc by the public (or not as you choose).

In theory it seems plausible that every Flickr image could inded be a web beacon, meaning Flickr could correlate sign up IDs with IP addresses and web sites, as well as patterns of known associates (people who look at your pictures tend to be people who know you).

Anyone like to comment? I must go have a look at the Flickr privacy policy :-)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Even if you have the IP doesn't mean that you can identify a person, meaning you need the Internet Provider to give the autority the name of the visitor who match with the IP. Am I missing something?