Wednesday, January 25, 2006

After Subpoenas Some Pause

Internet Searches Give Some Pause - New York Times

The above leads to a concise piece in the New York Times where some internet users give response to the recent US government subpoenas on search engines. It is the simple answers that betray the problems. When you walk, CCTV sees you but there are too many of us to monitor. An argument here, for example, suggests that when you search the data is recorded but remains such microscopic in the huge volume of information that individual monitoring would be near impossible. I'm not so sure. CCTV is a physical thing - it can be recalled where specifically needed, but there is not enough manpower to monitor everything from a set location. Data is altogether a different thing - it is an essentially non-physical form of information that can be filtered and analysed at incredible speed by powerful computer engines. The search companies are themselves the example - combine them under an even more powerful government software and the threat is very real indeed.

As I write, radio news has just broken that Google, despite their current stand-off on the US subpoena, have agreed to censor their search engine in China. Maybe there is a limit to what they can resist after all.


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