I originally wrote this as a comment to Pamela's blog, but I thought it was interesting enough to stand alone.
Quoting from her post:
The AOL search data scandal is a welcome wakeup call. It is useful to remember that even a common, theoretically harmless internet activity might be used to correlate between normally segmented parts of a person’s identity. Data that people believe goes no farther than from the chair to the keyboard gets published, and one more illusion of privacy goes out like the baby with the bathwater.
It's a nasty quagmire we've gotten ourselves into.
On one hand, it's nice to see all the nasty things that we've said about one another in the past, but it's another thing to have one's identity defined by the questions(searches) that you've had.
What are you going to do? Not use search engines? Not Likely.
Heck the "G" has done a rather fine job of making sure that when I want to search, it's there.
Our world is shrinking, yet getting bigger all at the same time.
At least I know for a fact, that I'm the only Garrett Serack out there. Well, except for that granola-eatin' tree-huggin' Linux guru... That couldn't have been me... I work for the "M"
In any event, what you have to ask yourself is, how would you behave if someone was looking over your shoulder? Is that not what's happening?
A wise man once told me that "A hero, is a person who does the right thing when nobody is looking".
Sure, I think it's probably not really anyone's business what kind of particular things I search for on the Internet, and frankly I'm really not thrilled about the 'virtual profile' that is being assembled about me. Not because of its existance mind you, but because there's a bunch of people who are doing things with that information that they wouldn't if someone was watching them. (the Anti-Hero)
So, what's the solution?
NOISE. and VOLUME.
I'm thinking about writing a random phrase searching tool, which will start picking random phrases upon which to search, all with my cookie. And I'm going to write it to be a screensaver, so everytime I'm away from my PC, it starts filling the search engine'ssearch logs with completely useless information. If you want to make sure that they can't track what you're doing, drown them in crap.
What possible good will having the data do them, once you've started clogging the profiler? Hopefully none.