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Tim Wu: Why should search engines retain records forever?

Tim Wu: Why should search engines retain records forever?
Tim Wu: Why should search engines retain records forever?

Previous Politech message: 

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Converted
Date: Wed, 25 Jan 2006 09:00:16 -0500
From: Tim Wu  
To: Declan McCullagh  


I=B9ve obviously been converted by you into one of these privacy nuts. Here=B9s
a short piece on Google=B9s subpoenas I wrote for Slate: 

Feel free to repost on Politech if you want (first 3 paras are here):

In Google's Mountain View, Calif., campus, there's an LCD showing what's
being searched for at any moment. A passing glance may reveal that
information on "Depression" "marital counseling," or "anna kournikova" are
all hotly sought after at a given time. The revelation that Google is
fighting a Bush administration subpoena seeking to get hold of search
records like these has, unsurprisingly, hit a lot of nerves. In part because
it pits the Bush administration against Google=8Bmaking the case a kind of a
showdown of East coast against West; religion vs. science; Jedi Masters of
information-seeking vs. Jedi Masters of information control, and so on.

But the big news for most Americans shouldn't be that the administration
wants yet more confidential records. It should be the revelation that every
single search you've ever conducted=8Bever=8Bis stored on a database, somewhere.
Forget e-mail and wiretaps=8Bfor many of us, there's probably nothing more
embarrassing than the searches we've made over the last decade. Google's
campus LCD sounds like it's just fun and games, but when a search can be
linked to you (through the IP address recorded by Google), that's a lot less
fun. And when, as we're seeing, it can all be demanded by the government,
that's no fun at all.

Google is being commended by many for standing up to the Bush
administration. But however brave Google's current stance may be, the legal
debate over Google's compliance misses the deeper and more urgent point: By
keeping every search ever made on file, the search-engine companies are
helping create the problem in the first place. In the wake of what we're
seeing with this subpoena controversy, the industry must change the way it
preserves and records our search results and must publicly pledge not to
keep any identifying information unless required by court order. This has
nothing to do with our mistrust of Google and everything to do with mistrust
of the range of government actors=8Bdomestic and foreign=8Bthat Google must
ultimately obey.

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