TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: After Subpoenas, Internet Searches Give Some Pause

After Subpoenas, Internet Searches Give Some Pause

Monty Solomon (
Wed, 25 Jan 2006 09:07:15 -0500

The New York Times
January 25, 2006

Kathryn Hanson, a former telecommunications engineer who lives in
Oakland, Calif., was looking at BBC News online last week when she
came across an item about a British politician who had resigned over a
reported affair with a "rent boy."

It was the first time Ms. Hanson had seen the term, so, in search of
a definition, she typed it into Google. As Ms. Hanson scrolled
through the results, she saw that several of the sites were available
only to people over 18. She suddenly had a frightening thought. Would
Google have to inform the government that she was looking for a rent
boy -- a young male prostitute?

Ms. Hanson, 45, immediately told her boyfriend what she had done. "I
told him I'd Googled 'rent boy,' just in case I got whisked off to
some Navy prison in the dead of night," she said.

Ms. Hanson's reaction arose from last week's reports that as part of
its effort to uphold an online pornography law, the Justice Department
had asked a federal judge to compel Google to turn over records on
millions of its users' search queries. Google is resisting the
request, but three of its competitors -- Yahoo, MSN and America Online
-- have turned over similar information.

The government and the cooperating companies say the search queries
cannot be traced to their source, and therefore no personal
information about users is being given up. But the government's move
is one of several recent episodes that have caused some people to
think twice about the information they type into a search engine, or
the opinions they express in an e-mail message.

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