Escaping the Panopticon: Protecting Data Privacy in the Information Age, by Thomas W. Wright, 1998
via NTimes Op-Ed: Maureen Dowd quips :
It was hard to know which story yesterday was scarier: Osama bin Laden, still alive and taunting the U.S., or the Justice Department's trying to force Google to turn over a suspiciously broad array of information on millions of users' searches and Web addresses, supposedly to investigate online crime involving pornography.
The Internet is full of vile diversions, but prying without justification is just as vile. Innocent Americans - not just lonely guys in their boxers - could be swept up in the fishnet dragnet. Who decides what is porn? Will those who Google to find out-of-print copies of Lynne Cheney's juicy, cheesy lesbian Old West novel, "Sisters," be suspect? (The cheapest copy at Alibris.com is $195.)
Fishing in Cyberspace
Published: January 21, 2006
Enough is never enough, not when the government believes that it can invade your privacy without repercussions. The Justice Department wants a federal judge to force Google to turn over millions of private Internet searches. Google is rightly fighting the demand, but the government says America Online, Yahoo and MSN, Microsoft's online service, have already complied with similar requests.
This is not about national security. The Justice Department is making this baldfaced grab to try to prop up an online pornography law that has been blocked once by the Supreme Court. And it's not the first time we've seen this sort of behavior. The government has zealously protected the Patriot Act's power to examine library records. It sought the private medical histories of a selected group of women, saying it needed the information to defend the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in the federal courts.
The furor is still raging over President Bush's decision to permit spying on Americans without warrants. And the government now wants what could be billions of search terms entered into Google's Web pages and possibly a million Web-site addresses to go along with them.
Protecting minors from the nastier material on the Internet is a valid goal; the courts have asked the government to test whether technologies for filtering out the bad stuff are effective. And the government hasn't asked for users' personal data this time around. What's frightening is that the Justice Department is trying once again to dredge up information first and answer questions later, if at all. Had Google not resisted the government's attempt to seize records, would the public have ever found about the request?
The battle raises the question of how much of our personal information companies should be allowed to hold onto in the first place. Without much thought, Internet users have handed over vast quantities of private information to corporations. Many people don't realize that some innocuously named "cookies" in personal computers allow companies to track visits to various Web sites.
Internet users permit their e-mail to be read by people and machines in ways they would never tolerate for their old-fashioned mail. And much of that information is now collected and stored by companies like Google. When pressed on privacy issues, Google - whose informal motto is "Don't be evil" - says it can be trusted with this information. But profiling consumers' behavior is potentially profitable for companies. And once catalogued, information can be abused by the government as well. Either way, the individual citizen loses.
Feds after Google data
RECORDS SOUGHT IN U.S. QUEST TO REVIVE PORN LAW
By Howard Mintz
Mercury News, Thu, Jan. 19, 2006
Google refuses U.S. demand for search data: Microsoft, Yahoo! and AOL have complied
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER STAFF AND NEWS SERVICES
Friday, January 20, 2006