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By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2004-09-16 Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


A9.com is upfront and fairly clear about its tracking of search behavior in its privacy policy, Dixon said, where it states that as an Amazon.com subsidiary it may correlate information gathered on A9.com with personal information gathered by Amazon.com. "If you use Amazon and an Amazon cookie, then the Amazon and A9 cookie is correlated," Dixon said. "Whatever search terms are on A9 then are correlated with Amazon purchases and habits, and it is kept and they make no bones about it."
Google also found itself in privacy crosshairs with its Gmail service. Click here to read more.
So far, A9.com has provided few details about how the search service and Amazon.com will work together and share information. The Amazon.com Web site does include a query box for searching A9.com. Manber said that the historical information on user search and site history is stored on A9.coms own servers, but he declined to say how or if the company plans to combine the data with Amazon.coms customer information. "Were very sensitive to privacy," Manber said. "If [users] are leery and dont feel comfortable about recording history, we provided features for turning it off. But its a powerful feature and to some extent its an extension of ones memory." When editing the history of both past searches and past Web sites visited, users can delete specific entries or clear the entire record, he said. With the toolbar, users also can turn on and off the viewing of history records there. A9.com is giving Rhodes second thoughts precisely because of the uncertainty of how his search history will be eventually used. The potential for his Web search behavior to be tied all the way to his credit-card information from Amazon.com purchases is disconcerting, he said. "It is confusing that its a search engine tied into Amazon, and in what way?" Rhodes asked. "Given the connection between what youre searching for and your personal data, financial data and transaction history, thats too much information in the hands of one entity." Beyond A9.com and Amazon.com directly, Dixon is more concerned with having years or eventually decades of peoples search and site-visiting history being stored on servers that are outside of their control. The privacy policy makes no promise of deleting information, she said, and the companies could disclose personal search histories if they were sought by law enforcement or government agencies. "Its not that anyone is doing anything wrong, but do you want someone to know all the information about you and to know more about you than you even know about you, and then to be combining it with a shopping megastore?" Dixon asked. Check out eWEEK.coms Enterprise Applications Center at http://enterpriseapps.eweek.com for the latest news, reviews and analysis about productivity and business solutions.

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Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for eWEEK.com, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for eWEEK.com. Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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