The Hungarian reception of the AOL search history scandal
Posted by Annplugged on August 10, 2006
The AOL (subsidiary of Time Warner Inc (NYSE: TWX)) scandal about making loads of search history data publicly available for a few days has influenced the public awareness of search as such. Battelle was welcoming the scandal in a sense that now there is an opportunity to place search in the limelight (NYT: “AOL’s misstep, while unfortunate, could have a silver lining if people began to understand just what was at stake.”)
I was wondering how this issue has been treated on major Hungarian news sites (subjective selection), and if the news had negatively influenced Google (having 5% share in AOL), more precisely its aim to store and circulate as much info as possible on the world including archiving personal search histories. Users/customers’ privacy concerns related to web use/ e commerce etc. has been a hot issue since 2000 (Amazon, AOL, DoubleClick) and will surely be one of the favourites for decades.
One of the most popular Hungarian sites, Index.hu treats the issue shortly + highlighting privacy concerns, and Google is not mentioned in the article.
HVG (Weekly World Economy) is again very widely read (weekly, quality, mainly economy but also politics etc.). Here we get a bit of a sensationalist style (“raging bloggers” and enlisting the most problematic search queries like ‘credit card number’ and a homicide how to). Here we get Google in a positive connotation (Google resisted the government request for search data, and won the lawsuit), which is not always true on this site. FigyelőNet (the only real rival of HVG) did not write about the AOL news (last bit is on July 20).
Népszabadság (daily with the biggest national circulation, liberal/ centre left) strangely enough, seems to have skipped the AOL news.
Magyar Nemzet (daily with the biggest national circulation targeting conservative/ (centre) right readers): the AOL story is not mentioned–no wonder the proportion of IT/Tech news on the news site is very low (1 in Jan, 1 in Feb and 1 in July)
Magyar Hírlap (daily, considerable national circulation)–not treated at all.
The most popular tech site SG.hu is more thorough in its treatment (numerical data, quotation from Ari Schwartz etc.), Google is again left out of the scandal wave. The readership of SG.hu is probably closest to HWSW.hu, but the latter does not deal with the AOL data ‘leakage.’ The news site Hírcenter simply redirects to SG.hu.
IT News aimed at IT readers starts its article by quoting AOL apologies, goes on to bloggers’ comments (easy pie profile reconstructions, worries), and the last paragraph is devoted to the opinion gap between data protectionists (contra) and scientists (pro). Google is mentioned as successfully rejecting the American government’s request which “increases the outcry.”
Világgazdaság (WorldEconomy–daily, quality, economic) relies on the BBC and is very concise. No Google reference.
To conclude: articles that feature Google relatively often reflect on online privacy/ security issues, but the AOL scandal has not much influenced Google’s PR (no signs of taking apart Google personal search history). Why not?
To squeeze it into one sentence: we have few internet users, even fewer who reflect upon the web usage experience, and a handful who can see with their own eyes that you can check back on your search history (in GMail). SO awareness is low, lower, lowest, lowest-est.
To start with the weakest argument, my strong guess is that it might be because GMail service is not at all widespread in Hungary, so there are very few users who are aware of the fact that having a GMail account enables you to check back on your search history (most users have either other free mail services, like freemail, vipmail, citromail, or other mail addresses generated by their workplace, or some of them use other international mail addresses like hotmail).
Secondly, just like around the globe, Hungarian users are simply uninformed (and/or uninterested) about the power of search and the complex issues and opportunities it has.
Thirdly, only about 2 million out of ten million Hungarians use the internet at least once a month, so it even further restricts the number of people affected by the news.
By the way, I am really looking forward to Battelle’s expectations about a more intense (and hopefully, intelligent) public dialogue regarding what it means to make the world, and within that, our personal universe any time searchable.