I was sent a link to a new search engine that is selling itself based on the fact that it does not store personal information about site users or sell/give/trade information about site users, which apparently google does. I never really thought about it before, but it makes sense. You go to a search engine, type in some words, and click on a link. That is typically the extent of my evaluation of using a search engine. Does it produce good results? Yes? Fantastic.
But duckduckgo's advertisement got me thinking about how data is collected about internet users and why and how this practice might alter the way the world operates. Everyone who uses facebook has surely noticed that the annoying ads on the side of the page will suddenly change and all revolve around a theme if you type a word too frequently. Update your status to say "I'm going to Tokyo!" and suddenly the ads will focus on travel sites, places in Japan, discounted tickets, etc.
The duckduckgo ad claims that this can be harmful to individuals because the information that google is collecting is sold as a profile and can somehow be linked to your credit based on computer information. Can this really be so? And if the answer is yes, is this legal? Can search terms really be used by corporations to make a judgement about your insurability or creditworthiness? And if the answer is yes to that, then how would this impact society?