Google's search guru Matt Cutts doth protest too much in a recent post about privacy and Google's Web History feature.
But in light of the impending GoogleClick merger, it's understandable, and I appreciate his attempt to set the record straight about what Google does and doesn't do with the personal information it gathers on my behalf as I Google my way around the planet.
As an example, Matt points out that Google will anonymize my queries after 18-24 months, so that my PII can't be associated with my queries beyond that time frame.
He also points out that my ISP has much more information about me than Google does...it's the ISP that keeps all the IP addresses I visit (and which can also be legally verified with a credit card.)
And hey, ISPs even sell my information. Shocker!
But it was never Google that I was concerned about when it came to the abuse of my clickstream data or search history.
It was the U.S. Department of Justice.
Or my future employer.
Or my health maintenance organization.
Or anybody else whose business none of it ever was but whom might, someday, want to get access to the aggregate digital footprints I've left strewn about (even if only for the past 18-24 months).
That's where the Tropical SEO chimes in, explaining something I was saying to anyone who would listen as far back as 1999: That privacy protection would someday become a cherished competitive feature/function in the new digital milieu.
It seems that day has arrived. Tropical writes:
"At a certain point, search relevancy is a relative commodity, and other priorities are going to determine whether searchers hang their hats. For millions of searchers out there, the overriding "other priority" is privacy....I believe that switching costsare higher than most people commonly think for a search user; at thispoint the only thing that would make me switch my homepage and defaultsearch to Live or Ask would be if they became “the privacy engine” (e.g. take Google’s anonymizing to a new level–2 weeks?–and set a much shorter cookie, etc.)"
Privacy as cherished competitive advantage is also why you're also seeing companies such as "LifeLock" starting to secure $6M in Series B funding from the likes of Kleiner Perkins.
Because identify theft prevention is now a matter to take on offense, not defense, and there are now over 100K LifeLock customers paying $10 a month to help ensure that their identity stays their own.