Google Personalized Search: Who Owns the Profiles?

John Battelle repeats an important concern regarding the extensive profiles search engine providers, like Google, are amassing on each user. He quotes Greg Linden’s reaction to a Google paper on Bigtable, a distributed storage system:

One tidbit I found curious in the Google Bigtable paper was this hint about the internals of Google Personalized Search:

“Personalized Search generates user profiles using a MapReduce over Bigtable. These user profiles are used to personalize live search results.”

This appears to confirm that Google Personalized Search works by building high-level profiles of user interests from their past behavior.

Recent patents by Google confirm the growing reliance on personalized search profiles for delivering advertising and other services. The existence of such profiles, of course, also presents significant privacy concerns.

Battelle asks, “what rights do you, I, or anyone else have to edit, delete, or own these profiles?” Right now, the answer is none.

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