BigMouthMedia did an interesting survey in the UK asking "do you trust search engines to keep your search behavior private?".
The answer is simply: no.
38% feel sure Google will keep their records private. Interestingly enough Yahoo and MSN are trusted even less: 26% and 23% respectively feel confident those engines will respect their privacy.
Unknown but not private
The survey seems to reflect fear of the unknown more than anything else. It seems as if there is something new, possibly scary, under the sun.
With Yahoo and Hotmail being the largest web mail providers in the world with literally hundreds of millions of users I think it is evident users, customers, people have no gripe handing over their personal data to hosted solutions provided by large for-profit companies.
E-mail is one of the most leaky ways to handle your personal information. It can be intercepted along its route by "everyone". It leaves digital traces on the sender's computer, your computer, your web mail host (if any), your ISP... And it contains very targeted information concerning your current interests, concerns and even, through confirmation emails, of your online shopping behavior.
But "we" don't feel uncomfortable with the thought of "them" having our personal correspondence, up to and including the fact that that correspondence doesn't have the same legal protection real (snail) mail does, yet we should about our search history?
Privacy is not anonymity in numbers
The fact is that the Internet has never been a private place. When each small package of data that travels to or from your computer contains your computer's IP address, how could it have been?
A large percentage of the sites you visited already had cross-site (ad) tracking systems embedded. A company like Double Click is such an interesting and tempting acquisition precisely because they have so much information for so many people. And you just read my view on email.
No, the only reason we feel, or felt, private on the net is because it seemed we were unfindable. Who in the world would be able to single us out among alllllll those people?! Ask those who have been sued for posting defamatory information or illegally sharing music...
Nothing to worry then?
Privacy is and should remain a right. As such it needs to be protected from the top down. And that might be where the problem is.