What Do Your Searches Say About You?

from the how-much-can-you-interpret dept

With so much hype being focused on the government asking search engines to turn over data, on searches conducted, it appears that at least a few people are seriously starting to ask questions about what this all means. There’s the question of how much you should trust your search engine? Then there’s looking for ways to stay anonymous while searching, or suggesting that search engines stop keeping data altogether. A few people are dealing with the cognitive dissonance of being worried about all the data, but still being willing to hand it over for a buck off a box of cereal at the grocery store. Still, one question that we haven’t seen addressed very much is what do your search terms say about you? This is one of the reasons why we were a bit worried to hear rumors of banned search terms on major search engines. There are plenty of reasons why someone might search on something that could look bad in retrospect, without the context of why they were searching for those terms. While we’ve already told the story of the guy accused of killing his wife whose Google searches included “neck snap break,” it’s still a bit worrisome to realize that out of context search terms could potentially implicate people of things they are completely innocent of.

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Comments on “What Do Your Searches Say About You?”

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Mousky (user link) says:

Welcome to Techdirt Hyperbole

No search terms were banned. Blocked for a limited-time, perhaps, but not banned. Like any business you are looking for an angle or something that will attract readers. Nothing does that like the word “banned”. Besides, Google, as a private company, can block whatever terms it wants to at its own peril.

Mike says:

Re: Re: Little Johnny's searches

Then agin, if little Johnny can browse without parental control, what does that say of the parents??
Here’s a Google image search with filters off:

Scott says:

Re: Re: Re: Little Johnny's searches

The difference is someone has found a way around, it is not quite in the open. Google did at least try to block it.
Parents should be responsible, when my son gets old enough to use the web, I will be the type or parent using draconian measures to be sure he is not seeing that type of stuff until he is ready(assuming I have a clue when that is.) But when google helps to keep some, they will never be able to block all, of that content, I can rest somewhat easier.
The key to remember here is that google is a private business and must balance community ideals with business goals.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Welcome to Techdirt Hyperbole


It wasn’t meant to be hyperbole. To be honest, I see banned and blocked as pretty much synonyms. If you couldn’t search for the terms, what’s the difference?

We’re not “looking for an angle” to attract readers. We just write what we find interesting. Sorry if you feel we chose the wrong word, but I think you’re reading WAY too much into it.

Adam says:

Beat the system

Very easy to beat the system.

If someone makes a website with a single line of text with a link at the end like so:

Welcome to my site. Click ‘here’ to enter.

And then they make the word ‘here’ a link to something like http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=INSERT_BAD_SEARCH_TERM_HERE&btnG=Google+Search

You now have an unintended search being performed by anyone who visists your site. In court you can create a website that does this, not tell anyone whats going to happen, and then ask the judge to look at the website on your laptop. She will click the link and *BAM* she is now a criminal if you lose the case to the government. So naturaly you will be deemed innocent, to protect herself.


Wolfgang says:

another question

IMHO there is another, even more important question to this: What is the logic behind a subpoena, that demands a “multi-stage random sample of one million URLs” from Google and a file containing “the text of each search string entered onto Google’s search engine over a one-week period”, if DoJ wants to proof that COPA is more effective than filtering software?
What exactly does it proof, if Google’s index contains URLs with sexually explicit content? What exactly does it proof, if Google users search (for example) for female body parts?

Andrew Strasser (user link) says:

If you can't stand behind what you say.

You don’t deserve to say it anyway. My search works very well actuallly the Google people and Yahoo people see me very easily. I have no problems with man different names. You create who you are on-line. I’m an ASS. I will tell you that as I tell you exactly what I think about things. If you don’t like it Google me. I’ve been an Elf for about 8 more years than they’ve been considered terrorists by this new Govt.(If not longer). I actually have taken offence to that and it has caused me to become an activist showing them exactly how it’s done in the US by non-terrorist organizations.

Andrew Strasser (user link) says:

Also on the search engines information.

The reason this information is being asked for is because they want more information from their e-mail side in terms of IP’s and the like to be able to hunt down this band of terrorists who seem to be stealing even little 14 yr old kids from New yorks money on top of people like my mother from the state of Indiana. So yeah too bad if you don’t want them to have the info. If our govt. doesn’t take it then the sites should be shut down indefinatly until they co-operate with those trying to arrest intl. Paypal terrorists.

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