Monday, November 28, 2005

What Google Should Roll Out Next: A Privacy Upgrade - New York Times

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Yikes, was I the only one who didn't know that Google stores users' searches with personally identifying information? The New York Times just published an editorial urging Google to adopt stricter privacy controls, an article that brought this to my attention (why I didn't learn this from library sources is beyond me! Perhaps library listservs are too busy bashing Google for stealing our databases' thunder to pay attention to some real substantial reasons to be upset about what they're doing...):
Google has been aggressive about collecting information about its users' activities online. It stores their search data, possibly forever, and puts "cookies" on their computers that make it possible to track those searches in a personally identifiable way - cookies that do not expire until 2038...

The government can gain access to Google's data storehouse simply by presenting a valid warrant or subpoena. Under the Patriot Act, Google may not be able to tell users when it hands over their searches or e-mail messages. If the federal government announced plans to directly collect the sort of data Google does, there would be an uproar - in fact there was in 2003, when the Pentagon announced its Total Information Awareness program, which was quickly shut down.
Further evidence that The Onion is sometimes closer to the truth than non-satire newspapers.

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