“Pound Privacy” is a campaign to create the first standard for search engine query privacy. The implementation is fairly straightforward: If you append the phrase “#privacy” at the end of a query on any search engine or site search, your query should not be tracked by IP or cookie, and should not be made public in keyword tools. It is that simple.
This is an interesting propsal, and a way to give search engine users much more control over the infromation search providers can collect.
But it isn’t a complete solution to the problem of search engine privacy. In the #Privacy paradigm, the collection of user information is still the default – users must take action to prevent certain searches from being collected. Further, there are no real ways to ensure that search engines actually abide by the addition of the #Privacy instruction. In fact, Virante’s proposal allows search engines to ignore the flag “when the query indicates that a crime is being committed.” Not sure what that is supposed to mean, or who gets to decide what searches fit that category.
#Privacy is an interesting idea – a good first step. But I think a better solution would be one where search engines are prevented from collecting information on their users altogether. Short of that, there should be limits on the kind of information collection, how long it can be kept, etc. Users should have the ability to see the information on file, correct errors, and delete information as they see fit.
Forcing users to append their searches with a tag in order to protect their privacy accepts the premise that search engines should be allowed to collect personal information by default. And that is what must change.
[found via Canadian Privacy Law Blog]
UPDATE: More light criticism of the # Privacy endeavor:
Seth Finkelstein notes an obvious flaw in the comments: appending such a tag to your searches merely notifies anyone watching that “This is a really interesting search! Hot stuff here!”
And Michael at Better Software… reminds us that any search engine results clicked would still, by default, send the search query to the host’s site through the HTTP “referer” header. (He also sees this entire proposal as perhaps just a means to get “a bit of nice publicity” for Virante, which is probably why I (subconsciously?) didn’t provide a link to the SEO firm in the first place).
UPDATE 2: And Emergent Chaos rightfully calls it a “silly idea.”