Google’s ‘Cool’ Move…..after a long while (or DOJ wants to know porn frequencies)

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Branding: Great Example of How the Internet Changed the World

I’ve been posting bad stuff about Google for the past few days and justifying how it’s becoming uncool everyday. But, today, the good news is, Google finally did a cool move (applause). I know, I’m a bit late to catch onto this but I’d still like to get it covered. So, here’s the deal (put as simply as possible). The Department of Justice (DOJ) wants to prove that minors are open to porn even with filters in place, and that’s why they need search data of a week or so from who else other than search companies. Yahoo! said yes. MSN said yes (their reason). AOL said yes. But Google, coolly and (in my opinion) correctly said no.

This proves one thing: Google ain’t gonna betray its users (all in all, that’s what it equates to) even if you’re the DOJ wanting to prove “child porn,” sorry, porn seen by minors, takes place. This also proves something about the other companies as well: they would rather watch their asses than get in trouble with the DOJ. However, MSN, in their response to all this, of course, disagree. Their reason:

Over the summer we were subpoenaed by the DOJ regarding a lawsuit. The subpoena requested that we produce data from our search service. We worked hard to scope the request to something that would be consistent with this principle. The applicable parties to the case received this data, and the parties agreed that the information specific to this case would remain confidential. Specifically, we produced a random sample of pages from our index and some aggregated query logs that listed queries and how often they occurred. Absolutely no personal data was involved.

With this data you:

CAN see how frequently some query terms occurred.

CANNOT look up an IP and see what they queried

CANNOT look for users who queried for both ?TERM A? and ?TERM B?.

I think that’s a quite fair reason, to be honest. As long as we’re 100% assured that our IP addresses weren’t distributed, we’re ok and MSN’s safe. Search data and how frequently queries were places don’t matter as the Zeitgest (and Overture’s Inventory) already gives this away publicly anyway. However, Yahoo! and AOL worry me a bit with our privacy (AOL more so). They haven’t responded to this publicly yet. AOL being a part-ISP, have more data than the other search companies. Heck, they don’t have most of the IP addresses possibly given out, they own some as well. I don’t know what this says, but I do know apart from Google and MSN (companies that publicly responded and with the right reason), I’m not trusting anyone else until they come forward.


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