January 20, 2006 | By Kurt Opsahl

Searching for Mr. Privacy

Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL and other search engines have massive databases that reach into the most intimate details of your life-- what you search for, what you read, what worries you, what you enjoy. It is critical to protect the privacy of this information so that people can feel free to use the modern tools necessary to navigate the Internet without fear of big brother looking over their shoulder. In response to a DOJ subpoena for aggregate search logs, Yahoo, MSN and AOL complied, while Google fought back.

While Google may be able to push the government back this time, the subpoena and the compliance of the other major search engines raises the question, should these service providers keep the information indefinitely in the first place? Massachusetts Representative Edward Markey, the ranking Democrat on the telecommunications subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has an answer. He proposed a bill to limit the amount of information kept by search services.

The provision proposed by Rep. Markey is the same standard that Congress has adopted for information gathered by cable companies about individual viewing and subscription habits, and it better balances the tension between the commercial operations of Internet search engines and the privacy concerns of all Americans.

We applaud Rep. Markey for his concerns, and look forward to seeing the text of the bill to see if it adequately addresses the problems raised by these massive data troves of deeply personal information.


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