Why Google vs. DOJ matters

Whether it was because of their “don”t be evil” thing or the more typical practice of guarding “trade secrets”, hats off to Google for telling the U.S. Government to stuff their subpoenas of URLs and query terms where the sun don”t shine.

Maybe on its face there”s not a privacy concern with giving the feds a sample of queries (without user information) run on Google”s service – but remember who the folks are who want this information. If one of those random queries was “kid porn with horses”, do you not think that goes into a file somewhere so a U.S. Attorney can draw up a new subpoena for the ID of the user who did that search?

And watch your ass if the Christians actually get more political power.

Many readers of The Wisdom may not realize just how much The Cap”n knows about you – and how you got here. My personal credo is “don”t be evil if somebody”s watching”, so you really don”t have much to worry about. But consider a visit from earlier today as recorded in The Wisdom logs:

If you can”t make out what I”ve circled in red, this visit came from someone using a popular search engine to find “massage parlors and buford, ga”. This person was in Buford on the Adelphia system (I”ve redacted the specific IP address as well as the URL of the site this person used to find The Wisdom). And this person uses Windows XP, IE 6 and has a screen resolution of 1024 x 768.

And in the grand scheme of things, I really don”t have much information about this user compared to most of the big search engines. But if the government had this information and a reason to find this person, they have plenty enough to go on.

The post this person found was my mundane account of checks I wrote in 2005. TCL made some comment about massage parlors on buford highway, which is how it became a search match. This person didn”t stay long at all – obviously my check-writing habits were not exactly what this person was looking for.

I”m sure this was a dedicated Christian minister researching the plague of massage parlors in northern Gwinnett County. And until Gov. Ralph Reed is sworn in, we probably don”t have to worry about this kind of thing raising questions. Sure, surfing sexual sites will be illegal in Georgia, but what are the chances they”ll notice if I don”t report all suspected violators in my montly user report to the state?

The point is that the government, in the name of “protecting minors”, “fighting terrorism” or – surely someday – “fighting online indecency”, will want to know more and more about who is doing what online. Every time an organization gives up a little information without a fight, they get a step closer.

So it”s good to see there are organizations that are willing to fight from the outset.

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