Round-Up 08/15/2006

Here Comes the Flood

The fallout continues. When AOL published search lot data from more than 658,000 subscribers it did more than just violate the trust of its users. They opened up the privacy floodgates, reminding users of the sensitive data that they often unknowingly reveal when searching online. Now that the deed has been done, it can’t be taken back.

In response, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has submitted an 11-page complaint to the US Federal Trade Commission asking them to investigate last week’s release and to prohibit the company from storing search data for any longer than two weeks.

The EEF is calling the release a breach of AOL’s stated privacy policy, and wants AOL to notify each user whose search data was disclosed, expedite service cancellation, and pay for at least one year of credit monitoring service for each affected individual, as well as other demands.

The silver lining to this whole disastrous situation may be that it’s forcing Internet users to ask questions about what information is being stored, how long it’s being stored for, and who has access to it.

There’s good reason for search engines storing information, but users need to be reassured that there is no way their query can be traced back to them. Without that, the entire concept of the Internet falls flat, and simply creating “anonymous” user IDs the way AOL did clearly does not work.

Personally, I’d also like to be reassured the DOJ won’t be able to force the engines into handing over this information just because they may find the information “helpful”. This isn’t Minority Report. As a user I want to know what my privacy protections are and where my information may end up.

Google Coupons? All right!

Google has partnered up with ValPak coupons (no, I’m serious. They did.) to let businesses upload printable online coupons to their Google Maps listings free of charge. Now a search for “dry cleaners in Los Angeles” will return listings for local dry cleaners, which may or may not feature online coupons. Users will be able to print the online coupon directly from Google Maps. Kinda cool, but kinda dorky.

Reportedly, Google also has plans to allow advertisers to link to their AdWords campaigns from their Google Maps coupon, so if you’re a small local business without a Web site, now you may not need one.

If you want to create a coupon for yourself, er, I mean your business, head over to Google’s Local Business Center.

Terry Semel: Yahoo! is the best-positioned company on the Internet

Did you happen to read Adam Lashinky’s interview with Terry Semel over at CNN? If not, you should go read it. There are some real gems. I’ll just pick out some of my favorite parts:

With the recent deal between Yahoo and eBay, the two companies have gotten very chummy. Why not go all the way and merge?

I think what we’re doing right now is going to benefit both companies an awful lot.

An awful lot? Well, aw shucks!

Google’s motto is “Don’t be evil.” What’s Yahoo’s?

[Long pause.] I don’t know that we have a motto. Well, the mission of the company is, Deliver great value to our consumers and, basically, value them.

Yahoo! needs a motto. If I walked into work everyday and was asked the same question, at some point I would come up with an answer. How many times do you think Terry Semel has been questioned about Yahoo!’s motto? Ten? Twenty? More than that? It may be time to come up with an answer. Then at least people will stop asking. Just a suggestion.

From an investor’s standpoint, what makes Yahoo a better bet than Google or other rivals?

We’re not comparing ourselves to any one company, but as we look ahead in a connected world, just being really good at one thing may not be enough.

I’m glad that Yahoo has become really good at a number of things. We had a very significant financial growth story. As we improve our revenues per search and we financially maximize many of the things we’ve been doing, like Answers and Flickr, we won’t be totally dependent on any one thing or any one market. Things change very quickly, and I think we’re the company best positioned for change. Long term, I think Yahoo is the best-positioned company on the Internet.

Ooo, did you catch that? Terry Semel thinks Yahoo! is the best-positioned company on the Internet. Ballsy!

Blog Rank

Rand Fishkin is asking for trouble with his post Ranking 50 Top Blogs in the Search Sphere. In it, Rand breaks down the blogs he reads and ranks them into four different categories: The Mainstays, The Elite, The Niche Bloggers [represent!], and Outsiders. It’s pretty much a Who’s Who of search marketing blogging. People’s feelings are surely going to get hurt. You know how sensitive those bloggers can be.

In response to Rand’s list, Barry Schwartz compiled his own list of favorite search blogs. We like Barry’s better than Rand’s — he ranked us higher. :) [We’re huge fans of you too, Barry, especially the new blog.]

We recommend you check out both lists and take a look around. Where else can you find such a comprehensive list of Must Reads? Who knows, you may even find yourself a new second favorite blogger.

Lisa Barone is a writer, content marketer & VP of strategy at Overit Media. She's also a very active Twitterer, much to the dismay of the rest of the world.

See Lisa's author page for links to connect on social media.

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