- Current Web searches, even when anonymized, can still reveal personal information about the user.
- Over a quantum version of the Internet now being developed, search engines could return queries back to the users with the answers—and with the assurance that no one has saved or copied the data.
- Quantum searches will require search engine databases to use a new kind of memory storage, which is already being demonstrated in the laboratory.
Internet search companies say they protect their clients’ privacy by encrypting personal information and by using numbers instead of names to give their users anonymity. The problem is that anonymization is not always effective. AOL user number 4417749 found this out the hard way in 2006 when AOL decided to publish online a list of 20 million Web searches, including hers and those of 657,000 other users. Reporters were able to track down the 62-year-old widow in Lilburn, Ga., by analyzing the content of her searches. Luckily, Thelma Arnold was relatively unembarrassed by the revelation of her identity and intimate interests. How many of us could say the same?
This article was originally published with the title Privacy and the Quantum Internet.