Search and Media

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Privacy Paranoia Pervades

Its a preview of the 10 PM news on TV-- The newsreader announces Google's refusal to comply with the Bush Administration to turn in Search Data. "Watch how your privacy will be affected", she announces. Searchenginewatch blog has been covering the news all day long today here .
As Danny Sullivan notes, it has nothing to do with privacy. The administration requires one million web addresses and searches conducted for a week, possibly to capture searches that children can accidentally conduct and discover porn sites. While Danny points out its just as easy to conduct the searches rather than demand the data from search engines, Google remains the lone search engine that has refused to turn in the data.

Google has already battled privacy issues before [though this doesnt fall in that category]--with gmail. While the refusal to turn in data is part of a rigid Google policy, the same privacy paranoid brigade as described above had insisted user mails in gmail were being read [albeit by computers] to serve up ads. While the alarm died its natural death, gmail ads have become more and more relevant, as I've been noting in my inbox. Mails on dinner plans pop-up surprisingly ethnic cooking sites, while a chain of mails discussing insane real-estate prices in the bay area with my mom displayed extremely 'helpful' ads for developments in Bangalore, India [oh well! mom promises they are excellent properties]

Google will probably battle a number of privacy issues, especially overseas. But its probably equally important for the media to clarify the difference to the viewers, specifically between user-privacy and search engine data as well, without putting them all under one blanket of 'privacy issues'. I will be watching the news channels to see how and what they report.

T.V Remote on Fast-switch mode,

Update: The news did mention "YOUR privacy" as if the viewer should really worry about the Google-Feds news. While an analyst did point out "it didnt involve direct user data, but thats something they can possibly ask for later", the newsreaders didnt bother to correct themselves while they announced "how your searches will be evaluated by the feds" on the 10 pm news. oh well.

Update 2: Hilarious search

Update 3: John Battelle zones in on Google's fight

"Well, standing up to the DOJ and getting major praise for doing so is a very smart strategy, in my book. As much as I'd love to believe Google is fighting this for heroic reasons, I'd wager that the data has more to do with it."


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