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Search, Privacy, Government and Evil. “Don’t Be Evil”. Ashley Twichell & Emily Lang. “They Know Where I Live..”. “American society was built on the enlightened and somewhat thrilling idea of the public’s right to know”

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Search, Privacy, Government and Evil

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search privacy government and evil

Search, Privacy, Government and Evil

“Don’t Be Evil”

Ashley Twichell & Emily Lang

“American society was built on the enlightened and somewhat thrilling idea of the public’s right to know”
  • Legal: giving out information on addresses, phone numbers, even connecting a phone number with an address (reverse directories), divorces, murders, felonies, misdemeanors, etc
  • Although always available, in the past it was difficult to find this information - most people wouldn’t go through the trouble (but now with Google..)
  • Today, “you are what the index says you are”
  • Mark Maughan: vanity search revealed information he thought was incorrect, he sued Google, his lawsuit is expected to fail (don’t blame the messenger)
  • Orey Steinmann: 17 year old who googled himself and found out that he had been abducted by his mother when he was a toddler - he told authorities, and his mother ended up in jail
“ Thanks to search, we must confront one of the most significant and difficult issues a democracy can face: the balance between a citizen’s right to privacy and someone’s - be it a corportation, a government, or another citizen - right to know.”
  • Beta version of Gmail sparked the company’s first full-blown PR crisis over Google’s controversial use of AdWords technology to place relevant advertisements alongside user’s emails
  • While it seemed that Google was actually reading the emails, it was actually just ‘parsing text for matches’ in the email and the ads
  • Example: apple pie email
  • California senator Liz Figueroa introduced legislation to ban Gmail outright, this got lots of press and sparked debate - this is now pending a House vote
google desktop search
Google Desktop Search
  • GDS indexes your entire hard drive, much as Google indexes the Web itself
  • Once you index the contents of your computer using desktop search, your private information is far more accessible
  • GDS even makes it appear that the contents of your desktop are integrated into its Web-based service
  • Internet service providers and universities regularly keep records of where their users go, what they search for, and when they are using the Internet
  • While Google’s stance is ‘Don’t Be Evil’, what happens when the information falls into the “hands of the wrong people, of even those with good intent but poor judgment?”
  • Privacy is about trust - by using a service that connects your computer and its contents to the Web, you “no longer totally control how your private documents, your communication, or even your own browsing history might be used”
patriot act
Patriot Act
  • Following 9/11, the Act revises several previous privacy and government surevillance-related acts, extending federal authority to a number of new areas, including the Internet
  • Government now has far broader rights to intercept your private data communications - a reinterpretation of the 4th amendment
  • Bush administration argues these revisions simply brought the law from the “telephone age to the Internet age” - however the truth is a bit more complicated than that ..
anti patriot act
Anti-Patriot Act
  • Government no longer needs to file a search warrant on you - it can instead just go to the company that you use (Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, etc)
  • Government can tap a suspect’s click-stream
  • Standards for who the government can tap and how it informs a suspect have loosened as well
  • The Patriot Act specifically “prohibits companies from disclosing to anyone that the government has requested information from that company, effectively drawing a curtain around our government’s actions
anti patriot act cont d
Anti-Patriot Act cont’d
  • Government officials no longer have to prove that they are after a foreign agent when they intercept communications - all they have to prove is that they feel access to your information might be valuable to their investigation
  • Backlash has begun to build - New York passed a resolution repudiating the act
  • According to Lauren Weinstein, “we need not live in fear of an all-knowing Big Brother. Instead, we should live in fear of any entity that possesses the ability to know whatever it wishes to know, should the need ever arise
  • “If Google decides that tracking and acting upon your private information is in its best interest, it can, and it will
the great firewall of china
“The Great Firewall of China”
  • “Technological infrastructure that automatically filters out banned sites - political opposition sites in Taiwan or Tibet, for example - from the walled garden of the Chinese Internet”
  • At one point, China bans Google - but backlash among Chinese citizens causes the government to restore the service within two weeks (Google claims it was not forced to modify its services)
  • Next, Google launches Chinese language version of Google news, which China immediately bans - this time, Google purges the offending sites from its news index
  • Important policy decision: Google says including banned sites in the news index would create a “poor user experience”
  • But the truth is..
“Simply showing these headlines would likely result in Google News being blocked altogether in China” (as a public company, they cannot afford to not be in China)
  • As well, Google also quietly invested in Baidu, the #2 Chinese search engine, and it didn’t want to hurt this deal, or any other future deals it might want to make in China (Chinese government overlooks all major business transactions)
  • In China, Google may have finally found a situation in which its ‘Don’t Be Evil’ motto cannot stand
  • Brin says that “not having Google at all would be a disservice to all Chinese users”
  • Brin and Page now find themselves “pondering a role as the morality police for the global economy”
  • “What may be most important is not the single concessionary act to China, but the precendent that this act would set for Google, namely, that the level of censorship before entry in specific markets will be negotiated on a case-by-case basis”
  • “The decision they take - whether to go in or not - will have a significant impact on literally billions of people’s lives, not to mention untold billions of dollars in economic value”