January 19th, 2006

Google Asked to Expose Searches Made by Users

The Feds have subpoenaed Google Inc. for details on the searching habits of its users in an effort to revive an Internet child protection law that was previously blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court. The government argues that it needs the information to see how often search results included pornographic content.

What are the implications of this? If Google bows down to the request, it will simply put our rights to privacy in danger. Google’s privacy policy states that:

We may also share information with third parties in limited circumstances, including when complying with legal process, preventing fraud or imminent harm, and ensuring the security of our network and services.

I believe that the circumstances do not warrant a real legal process. The only imminent harm that will be inflicted is when Google decides to bare the surfing habits of its users. And we do not know what the Feds will do with the data once it gets into their hands. It sets a dangerous precedent — chat transcripts, VoIP converstations, even webcam images can one day be avenues of prying. The Bush administration had been vigorously, albeit illegally, spying on civillians since the 9/11 attacks. Does it really want to protect children from porn, or is it desperately seeking other ways to rectify its failures in counterterrorism?

Google has since refused the subpoena, which I think is a good business move on their part. They are at their utmost peak — they’re simply the hottest item on the Internet. They do not want to extinguish that by destroying the relationship it has with the millions of people who built them.

Posted in Searching

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