How much should one company know about you? Forbes has an interesting article that examines the privacy implications of a Microsoft/Yahoo! merger. They’re not pretty:
Microsoft has been trying to make Google seem like a threat to privacy, when in fact it’s both of them,” says Jeff Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD). “We may now have two companies that will rival the National Security Agency in their ability to compile detailed profiles of users wherever they go online.”
The House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee has already scheduled a hearing for this Friday on “The State of Competition on the Internet.” If the deal goes through, the Senate’s antitrust subcommittee would be likely to hold hearings as well
If Microsoft succeeded in acquiring Yahoo!, Chester argues, the software giant would be buying the e-mail, instant messaging and search information of hundreds of millions of Web users. Added to Microsoft’s own Web properties, a “MicroHoo” merger would host 80.1% of the Web’s traffic to e-mail services and 27.8% of users’ Web searches according to the most recent data from the Web measurement firm, Hitwise.
That much information, says the Center for Democracy and Technology’s (CDT) director Leslie Harris, raises the potential for detailed profiles that could fall into the hands of third parties. “When companies with all of these services merge, it dramatically increases the amount of data that can be brought together or shared,” she says.
Neither company has an awesome reputation for safeguarding their user’s data:
In an ACLU lawsuit seeking to overturn a child pornography law in January of last year, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! were subpoenaed to release search queries. Microsoft and Yahoo! both released some data to the government, while Google fought the court order based on trade secrecy claims and won. In 2004, Yahoo! also revealed the search data of dissident Chinese journalist Shi Tao to the Chinese government, a decision that resulted in Shi’s being sentenced to 10 years in prison.
What ‘MicroHoo’ Would Know About You [Forbes]