Wednesday, August 23, 2006

coming soon: google blackmail

I have a friend for whom Internet privacy is very important. Like he explained to me how I should make up an alternate birthday--that does not share digits with my actual birthday--and give that to companies instead of my actual birthday. I've always regarded this as a little paranoid. Then I started reading the story of AOL making publicly available search results for a three-month window, changing usernames to identifying numbers to "protect privacy," apparently without realizing that people give a lot about themselves away with three months of search results. The site AOLstalker lets you look through other people's searches, although I believe they are redacting directly identifying personal information (whether for mercy- or legal-based reasons, I don't know). Here are selected actual searches for March through May by User #672368:
2006-03-01 18:54:10 body fat calliper
2006-03-05 08:53:23 curb morning sickness
2006-03-09 18:49:37 get fit while pregnant
2006-03-11 03:52:58 you're pregnant he doesn't want the baby
2006-03-11 04:05:24 online degrees theology
2006-03-11 04:13:33 online christian colleges
2006-03-11 22:09:50 why use a nightstand
2006-03-12 09:38:02 foods to eat when pregnant
2006-03-14 19:11:28 baby names and meanings
2006-03-23 10:20:04 physician search
2006-03-27 20:04:09 best spa vacation deals
2006-03-28 09:28:25 maternity clothes
2006-03-28 10:49:09 pottery barn furniture outlet
2006-03-29 10:01:39 pregnancy workout videos
2006-03-29 10:12:38 buns of steel video
2006-03-29 12:33:42 yoga and christianity
2006-04-01 13:22:40 lane bryant
2006-04-17 11:00:02 abortion clinics charlotte nc
2006-04-17 21:14:19 can christians be forgiven for abortion
2006-04-17 22:22:07 roe vs. wade
2006-04-18 06:50:34 effects of abortion on fibroids
2006-04-18 06:55:57 effects of fibroids on abortion
2006-04-18 15:14:03 abortion clinic charlotte
2006-04-18 16:14:07 symptoms of miscarriage
2006-04-20 16:56:53 esteem vitamins
2006-04-20 16:58:37 engagement rings
2006-04-20 17:53:49 high risk abortions
2006-04-24 17:15:05 new homes charlotte nc
2006-04-25 15:55:48 ethan allen
2006-04-26 19:37:34 wedding gown styles
2006-05-06 21:22:18 www.wedddingchannel.org
2006-05-22 18:17:53 recover after miscarriage
2006-05-24 16:28:31 combat uterine fibroids
2006-05-26 19:55:55 demetrios bridesmaid dresses
2006-05-27 07:25:45 marry your live-in
2006-05-31 11:54:14 juice fasting
2006-05-31 13:30:07 family specialist hospital
Thank God I have never gotten myself mixed up with AOL. The idea that there is someone out there who could call up the history of my Google searches now completely freaks me out. And, yet, at the same time, it makes me want to apply for a job at Google where I could do some kind of "sociological analysis" that would allow me to spend days on end reading the history of other people's Google searches. It's an interesting suspense-novel-plot idea to imagine somebody with access to the innards of Google using the search results to blackmail government officials for some sinister end.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Talk about making things up! It's Tuesday morning in Cambridge, old boy.

jeremy said...

The issue of date/time stamps is addressed in my sidebar, old boy.

Anonymous said...

middle-aged-boy, google would be lucky to have you, although i wonder whether you could actually get a job with them (sounds like a dare).

Anonymous said...

Boy o Boy! Cat Fight!

Absolut said...

1. Google's not into social scientists. That comes from someone inside Google who actually has a say in what they may be into.

2. Didn't I also mention that you should switch to different search engines when doing sensitive searches.. especially ones that are not affiliated with an account that you're logged into nor with your ISP?

jeremy said...

I am not looking to leave academia.

Jeff said...

This is a hilarious post - well done!