When the net is watching you

Click reporter David Reid asks why search engines are so keen to keep hold of our personal data.

Search engines have given many people a very good way to satisfy their curiosity about any and every subject. But, as many people are realising while they discover the world, search engines are finding out all about them.

This was vividly illustrated in August 2006 when AOL accidentally published the details of millions of keyword searches that 650,000 of its subscribers had carried out over a three month period.

The data leak revealed many people's online lives in remarkable detail. One man's life became an open book revealing the sad plot of his failed marriage, desire for revenge, and obsessive jealousy.

Search engines are taking on the role of confessor and counsellor albeit one that shares information people would prefer remained private.

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