The Problem of Anonymous Vanity Searches
10 Pages Posted: 26 Dec 2006
Date Written: January 23, 2007
This paper explores privacy problems related to search behavior conducted using public search engines. Specifically it exposes problems related to unintentional information leakage through a vanity search - which is a search for information about one's self. We begin by discussing recent events which have made this problem extremely topical. We introduce a number of existing technologies, such as Tor and TrackMeNot, that aim to protect users' privacy online and explain how each of these programs fails to protect users against the specific risks related to self-search. We highlight the inherent information asymmetry in the relationship between search engines and their users which makes it almost impossible to create cover traffic good enough to blend into. We conclude by exploring other avenues for protecting user privacy online.
Keywords: privacy, search engines, identity, anonymity, google
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