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Old 01-19-2006   #1
dannysullivan
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A Search Privacy Bill Of Rights

Bush Administration Demands Search Data; Google Says No, Others Comply on the SEW Blog covers the San Jose Mercury News article Feds want Google search records about the wake of the Bush administration having sent subpoenas to Google and other search engines for search data.

In the wake of that, I wanted to revisit the idea of the search engines having a "Search Privacy Bill Of Rights," where they clearly pledge what protections our search data will have.

We had a similar discussion like this in the How Should Search Engines Protect Privacy? thread last year, but it never got to the concrete stuff as much as I wanted. So I'm trying again. What do you think should be in such a bill? What protections do you want specifically spelled out?

FYI, if you want to talk about the Bush Administration moves in more detail, rather than privacy protection in general, please visit the Bush Administration Demands Search Records thread.

Last edited by dannysullivan : 01-19-2006 at 07:13 AM.
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Old 01-19-2006   #2
MrMackin
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Main Entry: right of privacy
: the right of a person to be free from intrusion into or publicity concerning matters of a personal nature called also right to privacy —compare INVASION OF PRIVACY

NOTE: Although not explicitly mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, a penumbral right of privacy has been held to be encompassed in the Bill of Rights, providing protection from unwarranted governmental intrusion into areas such as marriage and contraception. A person's right of privacy may be overcome by a showing that it is outweighed by a compelling state interest.

Source: Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law, © 1996 Merriam-Webster, Inc.
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Old 01-19-2006   #3
vayapues
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Great topic.

I would prefer the obvious:
That no one knows what I search for.

That way, when I search for where to replace a window I just broke, because I hit it too hard, in an effort to make the dog shut up (happened a few days ago) no one will know what a dope I am.

Quote:
A person's right of privacy may be overcome by a showing that it is outweighed by a compelling state interest.
I think the case of porn in relation to protecting children would outweigh an individual's right to privacy.

However, I wouldn't support any additional legislation. I think existing privacy laws are enough, and the weight really falls on the shoulders of the search engine.

If one search engine is not is not protecting my privacy, I will simply migrate to another.
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Old 01-19-2006   #4
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To start with...

I would want the ability to choose to optin or out of every possible use of my searcher behavior history.

I understand that the Internet is primarily used to exchange information. In most cases, for any really good information, you have to give up some information. For example, if you get a quote for Insurance on the Internet (the information within being covered by HIPPA and a different subject - I am talking about simply the documented act of "shopping for insurance"), you will probably be asked by the website to furnish an email address, allowing the company to send you the quote.

Now since the search engine provided you with information, does it have the right to monitor and track your behavior? I think yes, which is why I don't mind having the G toolbar installed, for example. Does it have the right to **sell** this information "en masse?" I am a marketer, so I’m pretty sure that somehow I will eventually be granted access to such intelligence. If I use MSN AdCenter, I already have a lot of this level of information available, and it would be hard to consider G and YSM not following suit.

So as far as non-specific data, should that info be made available for free to the government? Danny’s blog (http://blog.searchenginewatch.com/blog/060119-060352) makes a good argument against this, citing what it could lead to. But in my opinion the data that Bush Administration was seeking is legitimately something that in the long run could help to quell deviant behavior such as child pornography. So some will say then who defines what other “deviant” or “abhorrent” behavior is? Who made me Pope of this dump? I agree that this leads down a slippery slope.

OK so onto my specific data and why I should be able to choose to opt-out from it being shared with anyone, let alone any government. I feel strongly that “personal information” includes my surfing habits, which I should have the right to protect. Yet as I stated before I use the G toolbar with the PR meter on. From a search engine point of view, I would not feel it unethical to sell the ability for certain marketers to place certain targeted ads on sites/search results that I see.

If I am Yahoo Music, I might even make it a term of my use that my music preferences are made available to Yahoo Music Sponsors. **note here I am talking about my being accessible to the sponsor only through the Y Music interface, or perhaps other areas within My Yahoo, and that the sponsor doesn’t have my IP address, just my preferences.

So my suggestion is that within the “Bill of Rights” should be clear language which states that I have the right to know every bit of data being collected and the right to opt out from any of that data being shared on any level. The search engine in response should have the right to limit my access to “premium content” based on my choices to opt out.
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Old 01-19-2006   #5
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I thought this was why there is a privacy policy on websites. I understand that if I visit a website I am voluntarily sharing certain information with that website. However unless I explicitly allow it that information should never be shared with anyone else regardless if it is a business or government entity. If the governement needs the information they should go through the proper legal process and seek a warrant for it.

I wonder if telephone companies also regularly share their information with the goverment.
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Old 01-19-2006   #6
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I wonder if telephone companies also regularly share their information with the Government.
According to several news stories, the US government are using ALL Telecommunications companies that operate inside the US and these companies have been "cooperating" with the government in regards to spying on Americans.
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Old 01-19-2006   #7
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Confidentiality

I think that there are many things at play here that we have not even begun to grasp......

We may search for something for a school report on "how easy it is to make a bomb". In the midst of my Bomb searches, all in good cause, I really don't want to be scrutinized or have the FBI beating down my door.... One thing that they lack is the context something is being used in.

One major problem that I see is the fact that once the government gets the records, they become public domain. Within those rights, major insurance companies could gain knowledge about potential or current clients. They may conclude that because you search for deviant material, or medical material, or any undesirable information that you are a "high risk profile".

There will be the inevitable probable cause issue that just makes me cringe to even think about.

If I sound a bit paranoid, it's because I was brought up in a generation where I had many civil rights and liberties that I thoroughly enjoyed. I say that in the past tense, because during my growing years, many of these rights were taken away. We create all of these new laws and none are ever rescinded. Some of this is due to the fact that extreme circumstances call for extreme measures, but once these circumstances have been dealt with, we can address, analyze and reevaluate.

When is the last time you saw kids playing in a dirt lot, making a ramp for their bikes or at any outside event that didn't require chaperones? Sure, just sit 'em in front of the TV and give them an x-box or an iPod, and we wonder why they are lashing out? They have no anonymity or freedom of expression.
It's like an art teacher telling you the RIGHT way to draw..... by nature it is wrong.

I guess my point is that this takes away a fundamental right to privacy. We performed these searches under the pretense that we remain anonymous. I expect that it should remain under those conditions. I fully agree with MrMackin in that I would see this as an invasion of my privacy.
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Old 01-20-2006   #8
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Google searches are nearly as private as my own thoughts. All manner of strange, fleeting, and occassionally subversive ideas are made manifest in my searches.

Am I interested in exactly what yellow cake is, and how it becomes a bomb? Am I curious as to the population of child molestors in my area? Do I need to know if the lesion on my hand is contagious? Well you might see searches like these:

"refining urianium to make a bomb"
"child molestation"
"comunicable deseases sores"

Any sane person who saw these three searches would be instantly skeptical of the character of the searcher. Good lord what is this guy into? And yet the reality is harmless, private, and meaningless.

When any human reads my searches they invade my privacy and judge my character. I am made less when anyone sees what I write totally out of context, and I am put in danger when that person has the authority to arrest me, put me under survellance, or otherwise intrude on my liberty.

Therefore, because no human other than myself, can know what I intended when I did my searches, no human should be allowed to see them.

Right 1: A user's searches and/or search history will never be available to view by human eyes.

Next, the medium of search is closer akin to the medium of speech, than that of writting.

We neither format nor grammaticize our searches. They are brief expressions, sound bites, or even quips when compared to structured prose. And because of the the nature of search there is no assumption, nor should there be, that the writing ever become public. And it is this knowledge that searches are transient and quickly lost which endows them with a key characteristic worthy of protection. When we communicate one to one we are protected from the record. Speech cannot be taped and used against someone without the express declaration that this is an exceptional case as provided by the courts. In this same way it must be understood that searches are communication of one-to-none and thus even farther removed from the expectation that information is to be conveyed elsewhere. Searches cannot be seen as tools for persecution and prosecution. They are pure expression in that they are formatted for no one but ourselves.

Right 2: The authority to record a search history comes only from the individual. Any other recording is an intrusion on that persons rights, and thus will not be allowed.

Finally the connected nature of the internet makes privacy a difficult right to maintain. Nonetheless the goal must always be the protection of that privacy, not the exploitation of a flawed system for personal or political gain. While pioneering surfers felt an anonymous sense of freedom on the net that illusion was quickly turned to knowledge in that packet addressing could more quickly lead to your door than putting a return address on a letter. Frankly it is only recently that programers have created truly anonymous systems. ISPs are now willing tools of the FBI; having abandoned all pretense that they are trying to maintain the rights of their customers. Today's debate shows how quickly most search engines were to roll over and play the toady to a power mad and paranoid administration. Therefore to falls to consumers, and the heads of the miniscule number of companies with a moral compass, to state clearly and decisively that privacy is a right and any sytems which allows for intrusion on that privacy is a danger which must be fought.

Right 3: No information is totally disconnected on the internet, therefore data in agregate and seemingly devoid of personal information will be treated as private and protected until proven otherwise.

I feel upholding these three rights would go a long way to creating a more trustworthy internet. Not to mention reaffirming the community's commitment to a core of freedom of information and expression on which the Internet originally flourished.

-Ian Danforth
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Old 01-21-2006   #9
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I think it should just be simplified to: your searches should be treated like your phone conversations.

They should be private unless there is a warrant, and, just like phone warrants, the warrant should be about a specific topic, for a specific time and for a specific reason, not a generalized "fishing trip".

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Old 01-21-2006   #10
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darn Ian that was a very short post...I had even gone to get a cup of coffee looking forward to reading your usual input when I saw you were the last poster.

I like your comparison and agree that warrants should be related to a specific topic. However I do not think that conducting a search on the Internet could ever really be as nefarious as having a phone call for example with a fellow sleeper cell member about an upcoming attack. Search behavior information really can only be useful to marketers, IMO, or to provide general statistics like those which the government seem to be seeking. I do not think that this is a case of asking for entire web surfing histories, which can be and are often researched during crime investigations.

Do you really feel that your searches should be kept completely private? Or just from the government? And on that subject if just from the government, can't I set up a fake organization a-la-CIA, get its site ranked for some particular "buzz terms," and market directly to pedophiles or other "undesireables" in order to get their information?
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Old 01-21-2006   #11
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hi

I'm agree with search behavior information really can only be useful to marketers, IMO, or to provide general statistics, like those which the government seem to be seeking.

David
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Old 01-21-2006   #12
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Search data isn't private as much as you would think.. query strings show up in referral logs so if the government is already tracking illegal sites they already know who/where you cam from.

As per mozdex.com, we don't save any queries. We compile reports so we can find misspellings and generate our topN lists but then we just wipe clean. We only track our httpd logs as anyone else would to know our market position but thats it.
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Old 01-23-2006   #13
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I don't think the government shoudl be able to track a particular set of searches to a particular ip or computer network.
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