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Googling Google

January 21st, 2006 Leave a comment Go to comments

I suppose it was just a matter of time. First prosecutors used a man’s search records against him in a murder trial, now the government has requested that the major search engines turn over a random sampling of 1 million searches in an attempt to revive an Internet pornography law that was struck down by the Supreme Court as being too broad. The decision against the law points out that filters would be more effective and that websites could simply move their operations overseas to avoid the prosecution.

Not surprisingly, this story is getting A LOT of press right now (as of now, over 1000 hits on Google News) and it was a significant part of Friday’s edition of “Today’s Papers” on Slate. The story has been covered by pretty much everyone including: the San Jose Mercury News, the LA Times, the Washington Post and on ZDNet.

Personally, I find this particularly disturbing in the light of the recent domestic wiretap scandal (which appears to produce great leads: on soccer moms and pizza joints). I suspect this is a bit of a trial balloon – most won’t defend porn and once you’ve turned over search records for one reason, it makes it that much easier to ask for, say all searches on “bomb making” or “donate to al-Qaeda”. I mean, heck, apparently in a time of war, the executive branch can do anything it wants, right? I’ll probably find myself on a watch list shortly after I post this!

But at least Google is fighting back unlike the other search engines – I can’t believe they all rolled so easily (OK, so a couple claim they only gave the Justice Department some of what they want) but when you consider that they all bow down to China’s requests for dissidents’ identities we shouldn’t be too surprised. Hey, the the lure of a huge consumer market is worth “bending” principles a bit, right? Oh wait, it’s all about share holder value. Never mind. I hope that Google is successful especially in light of this quote from the LA Times article which is particularly frightening if you believe in civil liberties (my emphasis):

Under a section of the Patriot Act expanding the use of so-called national security letters, companies such as Google can be asked to turn over potentially useful data — even about people who aren’t suspected of wrongdoing — while being barred from disclosing those requests.

Wow. Have you ever searched for something that you might not want the government sifting through? How long until they start fishing through the huge email stores on Gmail and Yahoo Mail? Of course maybe they already are

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  1. February 11th, 2006 at 03:58 | #1

    Dear Mr. Schutta,

    I am a cs student a CSULA. I am working on a possible extension for the Firefox web browser, as a senior project. I am currently reading “Foundations of Ajax” and am thoroughly enjoying it.

    The extension that I’m building will allow the user to view a page, right click on a link and unfold the link in the current page, viewed. I intended to have an xul overlay from which to display the requested page, scroll and stretch, untill a fit was found then save the two pages as one.

    I have only recently discovered AJAX and it’s ability to manipuate a web page’s request object. However, as noted in your book, page 35, Firefox initially disables the ability to request a url that is not in the current domain. You mentioned a javascript fix for this and I looked across the internet and have so far been unsuccessful. If possible, could you direct me to the answer of my question.

    Thank you,

    David Zepeda

  2. February 16th, 2006 at 20:30 | #2


    Glad to hear you enjoying the book! Cross domain JS is a real pain – in fact there have been a number of posts recently that you might want to look at:

    Cross-Domain Ajax. Security Implications in Depth, Debunking Strong Misconceptions About Cross-Domain Ajax Security Issues, On-Demand Javascript and What else is buried down in the depth’s of Google’s amazing JavaScript?.

    Honestly, I’m on the fence with this one – some experts believe it’s a big deal, others do not. The magic we allude to in the book is “signing” the JavaScript code but as I understand it, this isn’t portable across browsers. Of course that may not matter to you! Good luck on your project and I want to point out that we included an email address in the book – feel free to drop us a line… BTW, you can call me Nate ;)

  1. January 23rd, 2006 at 20:18 | #1