As I go into Google News to get this link that will take you to all 222 (at the time of me writing this post) stories related to Google fighting with the Feds about releasing search history, I am creating a cache trail.
Om Malik probably has one of the better-written posts about this subject and I encourage you to follow the link below to read the whole thing. Probably my favorite quote from Malik’s post is this one:
“You have zero privacy anyway… Get over it.” — Scott McNealy , CEO of Sun in 1999
As Malik points out, every time we interact with something that has the ability to track us, it’s going to track us and save that cached data somewhere: from iTunes purchases and listening habits, to TiVo recording and viewing habits, to what we search for on any search engine, to this blog post that you are reading right now, everything is being cached and stored.
We have traded privacy for convenience and lack of cost for so long that we tend to forget that we have done so. It is important to remember that nothing is really private any more. In many cases it is easy to remember because so much of what we are doing now is public: blogging, posting pictures to Flickr, posting bookmarks to del.icio.us. Bear in mind that your work e-mail is not private, that your other e-mail accounts (for the most part) are not private, and that for the most part, we do not have to worry about the fact that some of the things we think are private actually are not.
The simple fact of the matter is that more and more useful features on free sites are going to depend on you logging into the service and giving up even more privacy in exchange for the cooler stuff.
As an aside, you can read this post on BoingBoing about how you can use some tools to maximize some of your privacy on Google.