Sanding our assholes with 150 grit.

Dateline NBC gets the Google/DOJ thing completely wrong

The commentator makes two assertions, both based on complete misunderstandings of what's going on:
1) "The government cracking down on child porn? Good"
- As already observed, this is not about child porn. The alleged interest is "protecting children *from* pornography"

2) "The government wanting to see what you're searching for? Bad"
- Granted that I'm sure the gov't would abuse personal info if they got it, the request was about searches and the results, not for who's looking for what.

Ugh. This guy was on a freaking top-rated NBC news magazine, and obviously did ZERO research. Pitiful.

Philo
Permalink Philo 
January 22nd, 2006
Good points, Philo. I see this somewhat amusing in the sense that a story morphed from search results to child porn so quickly, and without anyone doing their due diligance.
Permalink QADude 
January 22nd, 2006
I still don't see how one hundredth of one percent of Google's index is going to be even remotely meaningful to anyone. And even if it was, how does it help them? The whole thing seems completely pointless, and the government have just made themselves look like idiots (again).

And as to the request for queries, given that people from all over the world use Google this is also a pointless request unless they expect Google to filter out all the queries made by non US residents, and as it's all about kids looking for porn I can't see how searches done by adults are relevant, so for this to be an even vaguely useful metric Google would also somehow have to filter out requests that weren't made by kids...

(Given MSFT's doings in China it's no small surprise that they tripped over themselves to comply, so they've also made themselves look stupid; sadly no-one seems to be making an issue out of it, though -- all the fuss and bother is about the people who did The Right Thing™.)
Permalink Mat Hall 
January 23rd, 2006
And the thing that seems to be often left out? MSN, Yahoo and other search engines all already quickly complied with the Government order.
Permalink Phil 
January 23rd, 2006
Really Phil? I hadn't seen that mentioned at all. What news outlet dug up the gem?
Permalink  
January 23rd, 2006
I originally saw it in a Reuters article on friday, but a search brings up quite a few that mention it now:

this was the first i found today when searching:
http://www.governmententerprise.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleId=177102061
Permalink Phil 
January 23rd, 2006
I needed to read this sentence from that article a couple of times before I parsed it correctly:

"Microsoft Corp., which owns MSN, Yahoo Inc. and America Online Inc..."

MSFT own Yahoo! and AOL? Surely not... Oh, right, it should have been "Microsoft Corp. (which owns MSN), Yahoo Inc. and America Online Inc..."
Permalink Mat Hall 
January 23rd, 2006
The original sentence is correct, just has more than one interpretation.

As with all natural language, a certain amount of context knowledge is needed to understand the meaning.

In this case a difference in form between names used as subject and object would have helped to resolve the ambiguity.
Permalink Erik Springelkamp 
January 23rd, 2006
Here's a little thought experiment -
Let's say that the FBI had, through legal wiretaps and search warrants, obtained a laptop which had information about an unsolved murder. From the laptop they also get the user's (gmail/hotmail/yahoo mail) account ID, so they subpoena the mail service for access to the account to try to track down the murderer.

All straight-up Law & Order style stuff.

If MSN had turned over *those* records would you be upset?
If Google was fighting that subpoena would you support them?

Many subpoenas for information are perfectly legal and should be complied with. This one is more of a fishing expedition, but that may not lessen the validity of the request.

Philo [MSFT]
Permalink Philo 
January 23rd, 2006
"This one is more of a fishing expedition, but that may not lessen the validity of the request"

I think that is exactly what lessens the validity of the request.

They can acquire a search warrant for the house of a suspected murderer, they cannot get a search warrant for a random set of 100 houses in order to get statistical information about their owners behaviour.
Permalink Erik Springelkamp 
January 23rd, 2006
No, but if the DoE was evaluating legislation regarding power distribution, they could probably get the power company's records for power usage in various neighborhoods (with personal identifying information stripped out) to see if the legislation addresses a real problem.

If a state DOT was considering legislation regarding pausing in an intersection, maybe they'd request video from traffic light cameras (outside the purview of the reason the cameras exist) to determine how much of a problem it is.

Here's one - let's say that someone was suing Google for screwing up their mail. They allege that stripping punctuation from mail was having some adverse effect on delivery. Google says "hey, maybe he lost one piece of mail, but that's probably not our problem." So he wants to show this is a pervasive problem to the degree that Google should be aware of it.

How can he do that? He wants to see Google's email routing logs to demonstrate they're losing a lot of mail based on dot-stripping. Google, of course, says they don't have to pony it up. So he files a subpoena for the data.

Same as it ever was...

Philo
Permalink Philo 
January 23rd, 2006
On npr this morning they had a really neat interpretation of the whole situation.

Essentially what they said was that Google's major selling point is as much their image ("Do no evil") as their search and tools. Google might have seen a huge benefit in improving their image by fighting for the rights of the little guys, even if this was a pretty standard request.

According to the reporter, privacy wasn't the reason that Google didn't release the records.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5167782
Permalink Andrew Hurst 
January 23rd, 2006
"Here's one - let's say that someone was suing Google for screwing up their mail. They allege that stripping punctuation from mail was having some adverse effect on delivery. Google says "hey, maybe he lost one piece of mail, but that's probably not our problem." So he wants to show this is a pervasive problem to the degree that Google should be aware of it."

I think you could just demand your money back from Google.

Who in his right mind would use some more or less anonymous relation with Google - or Hotmail - to conduct business that when gone wrong justifies a major court case?

Are there no disclaimers when you sign up for the service?
Permalink Erik Springelkamp 
January 23rd, 2006

This topic was orginally posted to the off-topic forum of the
Joel on Software discussion board.

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