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The local-business dilemma was discovered after receiving a complaint about a Palo Alto shop failing to come up in searches. Of course, the company cant rush to fix every complaint, because each fix could break something else in searchsimilar to when Microsoft patches a vulnerability and then has to test scores of operating systems and application/operating system combinations. What that means, Singhal told The Times, is that the company doesnt react on the first complaintinstead, it lets things "simmer."
Simmering takes time. Search company Ixquick, the one touted by privacy groups, hadnt responded to inquiries about the depth and nature of its search optimization by the time this article was posted, but chances are good that 48 hours of data retention doesnt allow for much simmering.
One particular area of focus for Google that involves very personal informationa users individual searches as determined by IP address, which only works for users of Gmailis the vast number of "signals" the company uses to determine page ranking. One signalthe company now identifies more than 200is a persons individual search history. History is taken into account to determine whether a search return is appropriate for an individual in the context of his or her past searches. The example given by the Times is the search history of a marine biologist compared with that of a sports fan when either searches on the term "dolphins."
This, of course, is an area that greatly concerns privacy advocates. Multiple organizations have proved that individuals can be identified through their search strings, given that we tend to search on friends, relatives, local addresses and businesses, and more.
Danny Sullivan, a blogger who concentrates on search at searchengineland.com, has written a blog that inspects the Privacy International report assertion by refuting most of its charges against Google and pointing out the reports weaknesses, including a reliance on subjective, unmeasurable input such as newspaper articles to come up with its rankings.
Even Sullivan considers personally identifiable profiles of individual searchers to be a legitimate concern to privacy advocatescertainly more legitimate than what he calls "old-school" concerns about "fairly anonymous" cookie data and IP addresses being a privacy concern. But, he pointed out, if privacy advocates are going to be concerned about those individual profiles, they should also start worrying about similar profiles kept by Microsoft and Yahoo, both of whom passed the PIs privacy ranking.
Next Page: Enter the law
Googles proud of that. "As far as I know we are only major [search] company to announce a log anonymization policy and limit it to 24 months," Wong said.