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"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." Theodore Roosevelt

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Search Term Subpoena Bingo

So, I found a site where there is some serious discussion of the search term subpoena and details about what is being sought and provided. I found it pretty interesting, in that the blogger knows a good bit about how search engines work and goes into some detail about the results of various searches. And overall, it's assessed as an exercise in futility.

It's important to note that from what I read, the requests do not involve user data at all. Shutting off your cookies or purging your personalized search data wouldn't protect you with this request, because the request wasn't going after personal data. To stress again:

According to the report, they wanted a list of one million web addresses. Not who went to the web pages and when, just a list of URLs picked randomly.

They wanted searches for one week. I haven't seen the court documents, but I'm guessing Google could have handed over a list of searches that were entirely unassociated with IP addresses, times, cookies and registration information. Nothing suggests that they wanted to know who did the searches in any way.

Having said this, such a move absolutely should breed some paranoia. They didn't ask for data this time, but next time, they might. Of course, it bears reminding that this type of data is easily obtainable from ISPs. So even if the search engines refuse to comply, your own ISP could be
giving up your data -- or selling it.

There is a lot more, and some of it pretty interesting. E.g. one search would show that there are 26.5 million porn sites out there. Wow. So why can't I find a site with a Lucy Liu look-alike porn flick to watch? (Oops. Did I write that out loud? ) Anyway...

What worries me about this whole thing is the concept and the possible uses of a precedent established by this action. The law the Bushies are trying to defend is already invalidated by the Supreme Court, per the Yahoo article in the first posting on this subject below. So the administration is using federal powers to try to overturn a ruling by the very Supreme Court packed with neo-con sympathizers by Republican presidents over the last 30 years. Isn't it supposed to be the job of Congress to write laws to overturn or correct Supreme Court rulings? Damned right it is.

And what WILL they ask for next, if they get away with this? What are they really looking for? To my way of thinking it's a two pronged fork. One is to set a precedent that they will use to further expand federal power into NSA spying on and control of your computer activities. They are after all trying to justify controlling what can be searched for under the 'protect the children' scam.

The other is to see if they can find terror suspects (like political dissenters?) by following their search terms. It's basically an extension of the library book check-out surveillance / fishing that they're already doing, only they finally realized the biggest library is on the web.

I could be wrong. But I don't think so. One thing I've learned by 50 years of paying attention to US politics is that a cynical approach to anything the feds do is seldom the wrong approach. They just never let me down by doing something nice when I think it's gonna be shitty.

So, look for China style net controls in the future. Look for firewalls if you don't have one already, encryption, and any other foil (foreign based e-mail or ISP maybe?) you can think of. Or risk losing any privacy you do have. It may not stop them, but why let it be easy?

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