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Why the Google story matters

There is so much stuff out there that are just so fascinating… I could keep up with them if I just blogged full time! But I don't, so… I'm just going to focus on the Google story and I'll try to get to some other posts later today... But I'm still fascinated – and scarred – about the Justice Department wanting Google records story.

Why is this story so important? Because search has become so important. [See FCW's story from October about search. Also see this entry from FCW's other blog about a poll showing that search was the second most popular application behind e-mail.]

Here is a press release from the Nielsen folks, which look at how many of us are looking at what, that says that the search bar has become a de facto way of going to a Web site. They argue – I'm not sure I believe it – that people even Google "Google" rather than type in Google.com into their browser. (Unfortunately Nielsen-Netratings doesn't allow me to link directly to the release... and the release is a PDF, so... but you'll find it on that page.)

Here is the essence:

Web surfers often use search engines to navigate their way to common Web sites rather than typing the Web site's URL directly into the address bar. Web users' top search terms were popular, well-known Web site names, such as "ebay" and "google," according to Nielsen//NetRatings MegaView Search from November 2005.


So the folks over at Anonymizer sent me this press release earlier this week:

ANONYMIZER PROTECTS USERS' PRIVACY ON ALL SEARCH ENGINES; free trial
Current Google issue highlights the need for users to protect their identity when on the Internet.

San Diego, Calif. – January 23, 2006 – Anonymizer Inc., the leader in online identity protection technology and software solutions, today commended Google's efforts to protect their customers' privacy by refusing the federal government access to a week's worth of online search records...

The Internet's top four search engines, Google, Yahoo, MSN, and AOL, state in their privacy policies that they automatically record information on user searches, including Internet browser and language, computer IP addresses, unique cookie information, and the URL of the page requested.

"Although the Google subpoena didn't request personal information, that information is readily available and this raises a red flag," said Lance Cottrell, Anonymizer founder, chief scientist and privacy advocate. "Just as you wouldn't want anyone listening in on your private conversations, you don't want anyone watching your every move on the Internet. This simply underscores the importance of protecting your identity when on the Internet."

Anonymizer's newest identity protection solution, Anonymous Surfing, protect users' privacy when on the Internet, regardless of the search engine used. Anonymous Surfing leads the market in IP address shielding through innovative patent-pending processes. In addition, it provides Wi-Fi data security, proactive protection against phishing and pharming threats, and 128-bit encryption that creates a virtual tunnel from the PC to the Anonymizer identity protection network. Users can download a free seven-day trial of Anonymous Surfing at www.anonymizer.com/consumer.


I should note that Anonymizer uses persistent cookies... of course.

A poll over the weekend showed that most people believe that Google should not release that information to the Justice Department.

More than a third said they would even stop using the world's most popular search engine if the company did so.

The survey results, released Monday by the Ponemon Institute, a think tank that studies privacy in businesses and government, indicate that a vast majority of respondents do not believe that Google collects information that can personally identify who they are. Nonetheless, they do not want Google releasing Web searching information to the government.

``People feel very strongly about this,'' said Larry Ponemon, chairman of the institute. ``It doesn't matter if Google collects personally identifiable information or not. It's that, if the government gets it, it could be put into a dossier, or something, someday in a way that identifies you.''


And it is almost shocking that people don't know that such data is recorded.

A piece in Slate.com says the simple prescription for keeping Google's records out of government hands is for Google to not record that information in the first place.

Another Slate piece says the subpoena fight is all about public relations.

And check out Slate.com's collection of editorial cartoons on the subject.

Other items on this subject:

The story was the focus of a segment on PBS's NewsHour on Friday that is worth a read and will get you caught up... In that segment, Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center did an excellent job summing up the issue, I thought.

A MarketWatch columnist takes the Justice Department to task.

In fact, if you can find anybody who really defends the Justice Department, I'd love to read it.

And on the topic of Google, but unrelated to the Justice Department... Google is winning the brand battle. You can see the full list from BrandChannel.com.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Jan 25, 2006 at 12:15 PM


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