Online Privacy

The Verdict is In: Google v. U.S.A.

Google Inc. won a partial victory in a battle with the government when a federal judge ruled yesterday that the company didn't have to turn over customer search queries to the U.S. Justice Department.

U.S. District Judge James Ware in San Jose, California, refused to make Google, the most-used Internet search engine, give the agency 5,000 search queries as part of an effort to defend a law aimed at keeping children from accessing Internet pornography. Ware did rule Google had to comply with the U.S. demand for 50,000 Web addresses from its index of Web sites. New from Bloomberg.com and The New York Times.

Library security same after threat

From The Newton, Mass weekly Newton TAB:

A month after someone allegedly e-mailed a terrorist threat from the Newton Public Library, the library has not made it more difficult for potential criminals to use the Internet.
"Anyone could walk in off the street... the [alleged terrorist] could walk in tomorrow and do it again?" Alderman Brian Yates asked librarian Kathy Glick-Weil at a meeting last Wednesday.
"That's right," Glick-Weil said.

See prior LISNews coverage from Jan 25 [2], Jan 27, Feb 6, and Feb 19

Privacy rights and public safety issues Simplified

Anonymous Patron writes "David Cohen, mayor of Newton, Massachusetts and Kathy Glick-Weil, director of the Newton Free Library, offer op-ed page acticle in the February 16, 2006 issue of The Boston Globe. "Let us say, in no uncertain terms, that our insistence on a warrant did not put public safety at risk. If the federal authorities needed immediate access to those computers to protect people's safety, the FBI and US attorney's office would have cited their specific authority to take them without a warrant, and we would have cooperated fully. At no time did these agencies indicate that this was necessary.""

Berkeley Watchdogs Bark at RFID Plan

A group of concerned citizens are protesting the use of RFID tags (which they call "spy chips") at an authors gala today says Inside Bay Area.

Berkeleyans Organizing for Library Defense will gather in front of the library on Kittredge Street at 6 p.m. as people arrive at the $250-a-plate event, where more than two dozen Bay Area authors are expected, including Mark Danner, Judy Rodgers, Peter Coyote, Mary Roach and Deborah Santana.

The sold-out event, which this year includes dim sum, sushi and high-end vodka martinis, draws an elite crowd and raises thousands of dollars every year for the library.

Could Future Subpoenas Tie You to 'Britney Spears?

Anonymous Patron writes "Fred von Lohmann, senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has an interesting Article On Law.com that says DOJ's subpoena of Google may lead to more intrusive examination of Internet users' online records. von Lohmann says, "Search engines should stop keeping so much information about us, and points to the The Video Privacy Protection Act, and says a similar rule has recently been proposed for search engines in legislation introduced by Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass. Such a rule would go a long way toward protecting our privacy online."

Civil Liberties: from DC to the Newton Library

From The Bostonist , opinions about civil liberties and libraries, particularly as they pertain to the attempted seizure of materials at the Newton Library last week. The paper offers a link to quotes from Boston lecturer Richard Cravatts, also submitted here by LISNews reader DeeS:

"The more thorny and pressing question is why a library director could even exercise the authority to block access to vital evidence requested by the police and FBI, stalling an investigation during an ongoing crime where stakes are high. More to the point, why are librarians, whose professional training concentrates on mastering the use of the Dewey Decimal System, making any decisions that affect law enforcement?"

The op-ed above was printed in the Boston Globe in response to their own editorial on the subject of the attempted Newton seizure.

City Stalls FBI Access in Library

From The Daily News Tribune:

"Law enforcement and Newton Free Library officials were embroiled in a tense standoff last week when the city refused to let police and the FBI examine library computers without a warrant."

"Police rushed to the main library last Wednesday after it was determined that a terrorist threat to Brandeis University had been sent from a computer at the library."

"But requests to examine any of its computers were rebuffed by library Director Kathy Glick-Weil and Mayor David Cohen on the grounds that they did not have a warrant."

DOJ Search Engine Requests, Intrusive, yet futile

Daniel is sharing this interesting piece by Danny Sullivan on the SearchEngineWatch blog about the trustworthiness of search engines in the aftermath the government's request for information.

Alberto Gonzales v. Google

Google has now been taken to court in California by Alberto Gonzales, the US Attorney-General. The lawsuit describes any privacy concerns as illusory, arguing that it does not want to see any additional information that would identify the person who entered the search.

The site's lawyer said: Google's acceding to the request would suggest that it is willing to reveal information about those who use its services. This is not a perception that Google can accept. This report is from Times Online UK, which also outlines how search engines in Great Britain must comply with the "Home Office Code," recommending that they seriously consider blocking weblinks that contain illegal child abuse images.

Mining Subversion Is Just a Wish(list) Away

Tom Owad over at Applefritter.com presents an interesting look at privacy, data mining, and Amazon.com wish lists in an article entitled Data Mining 101: Finding Subversives with Amazon Wishlists.

The article, while technical, shows the frightening and fascinating results of a small-scale data mining operation. Using public domain tools and without violating the Amazon terms of service, Mr. Owad was able to collect and correlate the addresses and potential reading interests of hundreds of persons. This article is sobering and--without hyperbole--a must read.

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