Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Google and Privacy

This article from today's NYT is pretty amusing:
"After Subpoenas, Internet Searches Give Some Pause"

Here we have an article that surveys a bunch of completely uninformed people on how they 'feel' about the government subpoenaing Google searches. Their 'feelings' mostly border on baseless paranoia (though NYT throws in a few level-headed quotes presumably for balance).

But what I find absolutely hilarious in the story, is that one Kathryn Hanson is "frightened" that the government might discover that she googled the phrase "rent boy" (apparently a young male prostitute). Note to Kathryn: If you are so concerned about your privacy, you might want to refrain from announcing your online activities on the front page of the New York Times.

Sheryl Decker admits to composing extremely unflattering emails about the President and the government, but now she 'thinks twice' about what she writes in email, since the government might be watching. Note to Sheryl: The government also has access to the New York Times. And it doesn't need a subpoena to read it. Now they know who you are, and what you did. Perhaps you might want to 'think twice' about what you confess to reporters?

On a more serious note, it's a bit mind-boggling that the New York Times would create a front page article out of a bunch of interviews with ignoramuses regarding how they 'feel' about a topic on which they have no knowledge.

In point of fact, I don't know whether to be concerned or not about the government subpoena of Google records -- and the New York Times did nothing whatsoever to help me understand the facts and issues involved. The article quotes one commenter saying that the government will only have access to batches of search phrases, without any identifying information -- which was my guess on the matter. But could the NYT perhaps do some first-hand investigative reporting into the contents of the subpoena to see if that is true? Are there any legal or constitutional issues with the government subpoenaing information to go on what seems like a 'fishing trip'? I have no idea. And the New York Times sure didn't see fit to enlighten me on the matter.


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