2005-12-01

Google, staten USA og privatliv

What Google Should Roll Out Next: A Privacy Upgrade - New York Times:

The biggest area where Google's principles are likely to conflict is privacy. Google has been aggressive about collecting information about its users' activities online. It stores their search data, possibly forever, and puts 'cookies' on their computers that make it possible to track those searches in a personally identifiable way - cookies that do not expire until 2038. Its e-mail system, Gmail, scans the content of e-mail messages so relevant ads can be posted. Google's written privacy policy reserves the right to pool what it learns about users from their searches with what it learns from their e-mail messages, though Google says it won't do so. It also warns that users' personal information may be processed on computers located in other countries.

The government can gain access to Google's data storehouse simply by presenting a valid warrant or subpoena. Under the Patriot Act, Google may not be able to tell users when it hands over their searches or e-mail messages. If the federal government announced plans to directly collect the sort of data Google does, there would be an uproar - in fact there was in 2003, when the Pentagon announced its Total Information Awareness program, which was quickly shut down.

Concurring Opinions: Google's Empire, Privacy, and Government Access to Personal Data:
This is an important point. No matter what Google's privacy policy says, the fact that it maintains information about people's search activity enables the government to gather that data, often with a mere subpoena, which provides virtually no protection to privacy -- and sometimes without even a subpoena.
(Via Schneier on Security: Google and Privacy)