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Search-Engine Privacy Scorecard

Just in time for yesterday's column on search engines, the Center for Democracy and Technology--a D.C.-based think tank--released a report (pdf) on the privacy policies of major search engines.

Unlike a lot of the paper that streams out of K Street offices, this document is concise and readable, a mere six pages. Or you could just flip to page 2, where a table breaks down what AOL, Ask, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo do with your search records.

Turns out that Ask, Google and Microsoft keep search data for 18 months, while AOL and Yahoo keep it for 13 months. (The chart also says users of Ask's "AskEraser" will have their data erased within a few hours, but Ask hasn't actually rolled out this option yet--something the chart should state upfront.)

The report also suggests what search engines should do next, repeats earlier CDT calls for a "comprehensive federal privacy law" and ends with a one-page glossary defining such terms as "IP address" and "cookie."

One thing, however, that this report doesn't address is whether people factor any of these issues into their everyday Web use. Be honest here: Do you actually worry about this stuff in practice? Or do you always read a search site's privacy policy before typing in your first query there?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  August 10, 2007; 1:37 PM ET
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