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Google Businesses The Internet Privacy

Google Pushes To Open Public Records 121

Posted by kdawson
from the whole-lotta-redacting-going-on dept.
AlHunt sends us an AP story on Google's push to help states open up their data to online searchers. Google is going about this in an evenhanded way, according to the story, and the results of its labors — initially in Arizona, California, Utah, and Virginia — will be available to all search engines, not just theirs. The move is being hailed by groups such as OpenTheGovernment.org, but the Electronic Privacy Information Center expressed concerns, given what they call Google's "checkered past" with regard to privacy on the Internet.
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Google Pushes To Open Public Records

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  • by Richard McBeef (1092673) on Monday April 30, 2007 @08:24PM (#18935875)
    Now not only are my stupid usenet posts from the early 1990s going to be available, so are my other "youthful indescretions". Great.
    • Porn (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Hao Wu (652581) on Monday April 30, 2007 @09:18PM (#18936297) Homepage
      Do you think that models and actresses from the 1970s through mid-90s ever imagined their sex scenes would be available for FREE AND EASY download to ANYONE on the planet?

      Talk about "youthful indiscretions". That's gotta hurt.

    • Not your "checkered past", no. Your "chequered past"
    • by zuga (1095747)
      This will give credit reports a totally new scary meaning...
  • So when... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Short Circuit (52384) * <mikemol@gmail.com> on Monday April 30, 2007 @08:25PM (#18935887) Homepage Journal
    So when are Google, the Library of Congress and the CIA going to combine and be simply known as the CIC?

    (Literary reference. Hope I didn't get first post.)
  • Privacy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NaCh0 (6124) on Monday April 30, 2007 @08:26PM (#18935897)
    If privacy advocates are concerned about public records becoming more easily accessible, they should get laws passed that limit the collection of such data by the government. It seems like Google gets the criticism because their search engine is too good at doing what it is designed to do.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      NO MORE LAWS!

      Let me repeat that and see if I can get around the "we'll tell you how to say what you want to say" filter.

      NO MORE LAWS!

      As if we don't have enough of the useless things already. All they do is cause problems and criminalize the very things they were meant to protect.

      NO MORE LAWS!

      It's time to start equilibrating the government. The Federal Government (especially) has done nothing but expand, and expand, and expand, for 200 years. It's time for them to retract, and shrink, and be pruned back u
      • Re:Privacy (Score:4, Funny)

        by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Monday April 30, 2007 @08:39PM (#18936003) Homepage Journal
        Maybe we should make a law that there can be no more laws.

        Welcome to human nature.

        • by Shihar (153932)
          Maybe we should make a law that there can be no more laws.

          You joke, but I could think of a good law that do almost that. How about a law that states that the number of words that can be used to create laws is now fixed at its current levels. So, pretend that you want to pass a law with 10,000 words in it. That would mean that you would need to either remove a law, or reword a current law such that you free up 10,000 words.

          What would be the result? Well, I bet you would find government pork would drop li
          • by lilomar (1072448) <lilomar2525@gmail.com> on Monday April 30, 2007 @10:01PM (#18936589) Homepage
            Something like this [downsizedc.org]?
          • by QuantumG (50515)
            Great, then you just need a law that defines what words have what meanings and make it cover every possible use of that word. Essentially you end up with a new language just for writing laws in. I suggest we call this new language "Newspeak".

          • by paxmaniac (988091)
            You joke, but I could think of a good law that do almost that. How about a law that states that the number of words that can be used to create laws is now fixed at its current levels. So, pretend that you want to pass a law with 10,000 words in it. That would mean that you would need to either remove a law, or reword a current law such that you free up 10,000 words.

            Abreviating statutory prose is a commendable postulate. A diminished abundance of words will surely result in more lucid legislation.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Then you end up with vauge laws being misapplied.

            My solution would be to make all new laws have an expirey date of no more than 5 years at which point it will need to be re-voted upon. Think that would clog the system? Fuck yes it would, until they start saying "no" to renewing frivilous or outdated laws.

            All existing laws should then expire in 20 years unless renewed under the new system. That way we dont have legal anarchy, but we do weed out the old ones quick enough.
          • Nah, I think we need a kind of Turing complete law interpreter / compiler. With a heavy use of automated test cases. Every change should be applied to the existing legislation base, with it's impact on other previous laws and test cases clearly described, or it will fail to compile. If it doesn't compile, or doesn't reach a certain level of test coverage, it can't be voted on and committed to the repository.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by daeg (828071)
        There are many laws that dictate the length of public records. Repealing those laws and correcting existing laws will reduce complexity and overall reduce cost over time.

        One of the parts of a real solution is something like 'cvs blame' for every single word in every single law passed. Want to know who added every single phrase. Yes, even punctuation, grammar, spelling, and capitalization changes should be tracked, after all, "I helped my Uncle Jack off a horse" is distinctly different than "I helped my uncl
        • by zappepcs (820751)
          You have hit upon the biggest problem. When our law enforcement services try to uphold the laws, they are often strapped with doing so in the manner in which others interpret those laws, and that is a problem. Laws are seldom repealed or revised, so the true intent of laws gets lost. When that happens, rather than review/amend we often just implement new laws and leave the old ones to die silently on the books.

          There are many crazy laws on the books that were intended to curb particular behaviors that no lon
          • I think there's another big issue. Have you ever tried to read any legislation going through congress recently? Let me tell you, Any DB admin would be proud.

            Title X, section Y, Paragraph Z is hereby amended to read foo
            Title X_1, Section Y_1, Paragraph z_1 is hereby amended to read bar
            Inser into Title X_2, Section Y_2 is amended by inserting Paragraph Z_2 to read as Baz
            etc. ad nausium

            Then go look at Title X_527, Section Y_527, Paragraph Z_527 and it read: Title X_X, Section Y_Y, Paragraph Z_Z is amended to r
          • by DAtkins (768457)
            Totally agree with everything you said except for the "let's repeal making horses wear diapers law". Cause man, they can't use a toilet at all :)
      • If you hate how much the federal government has expanded, why are you opposed to putting restrictions on how they can expand? It would seem that the best way to oppose "big government" is to pass laws or amendments that restrict the government's powers.

        Laws are not inherently bad. A well written piece of legislation can unambiguously take powers away from the government.
      • New laws are necessary. Instead, we should have expiration dates on ALL LAWS - say maybe 10 years. That way, only important, crucial laws get renewed, and it also serves to limit new legislation, otherwise legislators will be so bogged down evaluating old laws that they won't have time to pass new ones.
        • That's a decent enough idea, as long as we allow that the mother document (eg. The Constitution for the Fed, the various Constitutions for the State governments) is allowed to persist indefinitely. With any luck we could even have a lifespan on the various amendments so that each new generation could reaffirm its approval of modifications to the mother document. No more being sold into slavery by our great-grandfathers whom we never had a chance to meet.

          It passes a logic test, as well: one "lifetime" sho
          • by flonker (526111)
            This measure hereby renews all of the laws of 1907 to be good for another 100 years. All in favour? All opposed? OK, let's move on.

            Humans are lazy, they'll put all the laws in one measure and pass it at the start of the year, and that's it. Your new system is subverted from within.
            • That's easily taken care of by "The Rules", which state that every point of each law much be voted on individually. Hopefully this will lend itself towards the creation of more concise laws, as well.
      • by Goaway (82658)
        All they do is cause problems and criminalize the very things they were meant to protect.

        Yeah, like that dumbass law against killing. All it does is make it illegal to stay alive!
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by maop (309499)
        How about no more knee-jerk sloganeering?
    • Re:Privacy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Holmwood (899130) on Monday April 30, 2007 @08:43PM (#18936025)
      The above poster has it exactly right. I'll amplify. We shouldn't be worrying about governments redacting personal information, or even it being accessible via search engines; we should be worried about them collecting it in the first place.

      Sure, the IRS needs to know your income, and the DMV should know whether or not you have 10 recent speeding tickets.

      But I find the number of pieces of information that State, Federal, state-funded bodies, and legislative mandates (e.g. corporate information gathering and disclosure pursuant to governmental affirmative action directives) require from you seems to be going up and up.

      This is rather disturbing.

      Redacting, as the article suggests, is merely a half step. Setting a sunset on how long most information about you is available is a full step, and not collecting the information in the first place is better yet.
      • by QuantumG (50515)

        I'll amplify.
        [..]
        This is rather disturbing.
        I don't disagree, but rather than just "amplifying", how about expanding a little.

        Why is it disturbing to you?
        • Re:Privacy (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Holmwood (899130) on Monday April 30, 2007 @08:56PM (#18936145)
          Fair question. I like privacy.

          I also don't like the idea of some bureaucracy's picture of me defining me, especially if it's distorted.

          I lean, slightly, to a libertarian perspective. Your mileage may vary; fair enough.

          I really don't like the idea in our hyper-sensitive culture of some one (say) being able to look up (and granted, not all of these can be looked up -- at present) my ethnicity, my voting history, or every letter/report/form I've had to file with the government, whether or not I belonged to a gay/straight alliance in high school, or a Christian fellowship club in university. Or whether I asked for the Kosher or the Halal meal on my last airline flight.

          These, frankly, are no one's business but my own, my family's and close personal friends.

          I see data-mining as an expanding source of derivative information about people, to a disturbing degree.

          There certainly are legitimate things (in my personal view) for people to know about. Does someone have a criminal record? Are they a sexual predator? Child molester? Have they been disbarred? What is their credit history (if a lender).

          But I don't see increasing governmental information -- even if its universally accessible -- on us all as a uniform positive.

          Let me now turn the question back on you. Do you? If so, can you please elucidate?
          • by QuantumG (50515)
            I'm more worried about the use to which governments have historically put such information. Namely, people in power use their power to gather and collate information to maintain their power. First it is anyone who is a "threat" to their power is placed under greater scrutiny. Then it is anyone who is "opposed" to the current government. Then it is anyone who is at all "interested" in government. Then it is everyone. China is currently at the opposed stage and is quickly moving on to the interested sta
            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by Holmwood (899130)
              As they said in the 60's, 'the personal is the political'. I don't think our two concerns are infinitely far apart.

              I admit, my mindset in responding to your question was shaped by TFA -- namely, wide access to lots of information gathered on you.

              Nope, I don't like the uses governments have historically found for such information.

              I would again point out something that you haven't addressed -- perhaps because you took it as read -- the combination of search engines and datamining seems to raise the stakes. Be
              • by msouth (10321)

                About 15-20 years ago, IIRC, someone in Ottawa, Canada, dumped a shoebox containing microfiche tax records for 16 million Canadians. That'd be the equivalent of perhaps 150-some million American citizens' tax records.


                I think you've got your exchange rate the wrong way round.
                • He's saying "equivalent" meaning the same percentage of the population. 16 million Canadians is almost half the population of Canada, so consider losing the American tax records for half the population.

                  Of course, its a stupid comparison unless you're just trying to establish severity to Canadians. The same shoebox in the USA would still hold the same number of tax records, and whether 50% of the population or not, 16 million upset citizens is a lot.
                  • by msouth (10321)
                    I understood what he said (although I do appreciate your being helpful in the case that I might not have--it was a good idea to make the comparison he did, I thought). I was actually just making an apparently too-obscure joke about the exchange rate between Canadian and US dollar. :)

                    Note also that I am refraining from making a snide remark about how we would use a more efficient storage mechanism and get the same percentage of our population into said shoebox. I think I deserve some diplomacy points for t
                    • I was going to make a snide remark about Americans losing laptops full of secret data, but I try to keep from pissing off various other intelligence agencies along with CSIS [csis-scrs.gc.ca]. Mind you, we've lost laptops full of unsecured data too ... yeah, we have laptops up here. lol.
                    • by msouth (10321)

                      ... yeah, we have laptops up here. lol.

                      So that's where they are.
          • by Wordplay (54438)
            I agree, I wouldn't want anyone to be able to look any of those things up in government records. That's why they shouldn't be publicly accessible at all. Are they now? Ethnicity is the only one I can think of that might be somewhere, and that's the least secret and transitory of the bunch. The forms one probably gets better with this model, actually; it's easier to only collate part of the entered data in the first place than it is to redact copies or scans on request.
      • The Knotty problem becomes one of interconnections. Sure department X needs to know fact A and department Y needs to know fact B, and sure we have laws blocking X from collecting B and Y from collecting A but when all such records are public and publicly searchable then the point is rendered moot, then X can know B and Y can know A and the stalker down the street can know both.

        This is, in fact, just what the late and unlamented Total Information Awareness project was all about and what private companies su
      • ...is universality. Sort of the same reason some Democrats were pushing for a military draft without as many exemptions--if it applies to everyone, a lot fewer people are willing to go down that road. If everyone's information is available, with no exceptions for being a Senator or CEO of a fortune 500 company or a famous actor or famous conservative talk-show host, then enough important (i.e. rich) people will be opposed to scuttle it and inadvertently protect the privacy of us little people. But if yo
        • by Moofie (22272)
          How is your line of reasoning different from "We had to destroy the village in order to save it"?
          • by SETIGuy (33768)

            How is your line of reasoning different from "We had to destroy the village in order to save it"?

            The village has already burned to the ground except for they mayor's house. The fire is heading towards the grain silo. Which should we save?

            • by Vexor (947598)

              The village has already burned to the ground except for they mayor's house. The fire is heading towards the grain silo. Which should we save?

              Depends, am I the mayor or one of the village people(pun intended)?

          • It's different in that I know the village wouldn't be destroyed. To stretch your metaphor, right now we have the rich people saying "For the safety of the village we have to burn down all the poor people's houses." I'm saying we should push that to "No, it has to be all the houses," only because I know the rich would say, "Hmm, maybe this house-burning idea is premature. There must be another way to save the village." The rich have no intention of losing their privacy, just as they have no intention o
            • by Moofie (22272)
              The people in power have no more interest in giving you your privacy than they have in compromising their own.

              That's my issue with this Transparent Society notion. It's great on paper, but how are you ever going to get actual compliance from the people who run things?
              • You're probably right in that, however egalitarian it looked in the beginning, there would be last-minute exemptions for all the normal players. The idea of making everyone suffer equally (and thus nixing the proposal) is sound, but I confess I'm not optimistic about it being actually implemented. The sons of Senators don't get drafted, and Senators wouldn't lose their privacy. The same goes for CEOs and so on. I was just theorizing how we could slow down the encroachment, and I think that if the "we're
      • But I find the number of pieces of information that State, Federal, state-funded bodies, and legislative mandates (e.g. corporate information gathering and disclosure pursuant to governmental affirmative action directives) require from you seems to be going up and up. This is rather disturbing.

        I don't find it at all disturbing if public corporations are required to operate in full public view.

        And, frankly, I think it wouldn't hurt if a lot of "private" information were public as well. For example, why shou
        • by Holmwood (899130)
          "For example, why shouldn't everybody's tax returns be a part of the public record?"

          You really want everyone -- that woman who might be looking at dating you, the person phoning you up to get a charity contribution, the telemarketer, the guy who just needs your address, SSN, dob to steal your identity, your co-workers, your kids asking you for a raise in their allowance, the 16-year-old with a drug problem and a crowbar, someone who slipped on a sidewalk outside your house -- to know how much you made every
      • by juan2074 (312848)
        Sure, the IRS needs to know your income, and the DMV should know whether or not you have 10 recent speeding tickets.

        We could switch to consumption taxes rather than income taxes. That would not punish saving, and would not require a tax bureaucracy to track how much money you earn.

        Also, no state bureaucracy should have access to how many speeding tickets you have. That is something for the courts to see, when they consider whether or not to reduce the cost or throw out your ticket. Some people woul
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      If privacy advocates are concerned about public records becoming more easily accessible, they should get laws passed that limit the collection of such data by the government.

      I think that would be a great step (even though it would probably cost billions to implement).

      That said, it still doesn't do anything about the decades of State & Federal records that are full of SSNs and other 'private' information... which would also cost billions to do something about.

    • An ex-girlfriend found me through public records. At the time I had an unlisted phone number and you could not find enough information online that I posted to get a street address, let alone what city and county I lived in.

      How did she do it? Simple, many of the counties in my area post tax records for land, fully searchable. She simply picked county after county until she got mine. (its not good to have an uncommon last name)

      So she not only had my street address she also could approximate my net worth b
  • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Monday April 30, 2007 @08:27PM (#18935911) Homepage Journal
    Where our government claims copyright on court cases and findings and other public documents. If you want a document, you order it from Go Print [qld.gov.au]. There's libraries in our court houses, like most the rest of the civilized world, but if you go in there in a pair of jeans the librarian will come over and ask if they can "help" and then ask you if you are a law student, and then ask you if you are a lawyer, and then ask you to leave.

    Thankfully you can still read the laws without paying the government for a copy of them.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by quarrel (194077)
      Gee, or you can grab them off the web for free:

      AustLii [austlii.edu.au]

      Still isn't complete, but they're adding past cases to it very regularly.

      I suspect that this is true in the rest of the western world, but legal systems were hardly ever going to be the first to embrace technology.

      Note they're robots.txt (this is just the most important snippet):

      # 14 August 2003 - unrestricted access to everything except cases
      User-agent: *
      Disallow: /au/cases/
      Disallow: /au/other/HCATrans
      Disallow: /au/other/hca/
      Disallow: /nz/cases/
      Disallow
      • by QuantumG (50515)
        Australia is the only nation in the world that claims copyright over documents produced by the government.

        Everywhere else has the sense to recognise that works produced by the government are automatically in the public domain.

        • by Kadin2048 (468275)
          Everywhere else has the sense to recognise that works produced by the government are automatically in the public domain.

          Uh ... I'm about 95% certain this isn't true -- most of the other Commonwealth countries are in the same boat.

          See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crown_copyright [wikipedia.org]

          As an American I think it's a pretty preposterous system, but then again I think it's ridiculous here in the States that works produced by contractors, being paid by the USG, aren't automatically in the public domain, and they aren't.
  • God no! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nog_lorp (896553) * on Monday April 30, 2007 @08:45PM (#18936065)
    Dear god, now anyone will be able to read public records. What is the world coming to?
    • Re:God no! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tymbow (725036) on Monday April 30, 2007 @09:39PM (#18936457)

      I think you missed the privacy problem of public records - the issue is not whether such records are public or not but why they were made public. It was never intended that public records would be harvested by information brokers and marketers and data mined but that it exactly what will happen once easy access is provided to such data.

      I don't mind (most) requirements for public records being public but what I do mind is when that data is then used for purposes other than for which it was intended. This is where we need privacy laws. I have no problem for example with having my name, address and phone number in the phone book for public use but I do have a problem when this information is abused by using it in ways that were not intended.

    • I have a home loan. The fact that I have a home loan is a public record. The fact that I own a car is a public record. The fact that I am licensed to drive, in most states, is a public record. That I am registered to vote, and my address, is a public record.

      All of those things probably should be public - i.e. if a particular party has a particular interest in those records, they should be able to walk down to the county courthouse or town hall or whatever and have access to them.

      Historically, records ha
      • The cost of accessing each individual record served as a barrier to accessing each record for trivial purposes.

        Why is that a problem?

        But with technology, that barrier to access can be eliminated. So when accessing public records becomes trivial to do, what happens?

        I don't know, you're the one telling the story.

        They get accessed for trivial purposes.

        Why is that a problem?

        For example, hardly a day goes by without me receiving some sort of offer to refinance my home loan.

        Why is that a problem?

        It's one thing when you suspect election fraud and have to walk down to the courthouse and inspect records; it's another thing entirely when you can run a query or event 200,000 queries and come up with the name and address of every registered voter in the country.

        Are you trying to suggest that being able to trivially determine if there has been election fraud is a bad thing?

        Just because a record is public does not mean it's a good thing that it can be found on Google.

        Why? Can you make an actual argument here or is "it just feels bad" supposed to convince us that nothing should ever change?

      • "I have a home loan. The fact that I have a home loan is a public record."
        [...]
        "Historically, records have been public, but NOT EASILY ACCESSIBLE."

        I have a home loan too. I receive at least 1 offer to refinance or to open equity line of credit in my mail everyday.

        Seems to me, the information was VERY ACCESSIBLE to obtain.

        Off course, its not easily accessible by you and me, we would need to go find the proper county office, and the proper hours of operation of the service, which of course would be during wor
      • by peragrin (659227)
        Can I smack you with a dead fish?

        I don 't own a home yet I get offers to refinance my home weekly. When my car loan was about to hit 3 years I started getting offers to refinance and extend my warranty. I have never voted, yet when i changed counties that I lived in I was suddenly called to jury duty for the first time. I discovered the local county already data mines the DMV looking for new people for jury duty.

        What's the difference. companies and governments already data mine the public record. Oh and
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Monday April 30, 2007 @08:50PM (#18936095) Journal
    New tags to search for, like Mother's maiden name, social security number, schools attended and the name of the first pet, of the first car. A Google spokesman said, "You dont have to click on the phishes any more, we provide all they need ourselves!"
    • by cduffy (652)
      If information shouldn't be public, lobby your congresscritters (at the state level, mostly) to get it out of public records. Relying on the "security" of having something be inconvenient to access is a false security at best; all it does right now is limit access to this information to those willing to pay (not very much $$) to get at it. It's nothing but security through obscurity -- and while there are cases where that can be useful, giving folks a perception of privacy while they actually enjoy no such
  • by Wordplay (54438) <geo@snarksoft.com> on Monday April 30, 2007 @08:57PM (#18936155)
    We've always maintained this weird security-through-obscurity dichotomy with public records. Technically the information is available to everyone by law, but it's such a pain to get it that nobody bothers

    This has given people a false sense of security when it comes to government data collation. I don't think most people realize just how much public information this out there that anyone with a few bucks and who knows who to ask can see it. On the flip side, it means there's almost no public benefit from the government keeping the information because it can't be easily collated by a private citizen.

    This is the best thing that could happen--let's dump it all out on the net and make it easy to see someone's entire public record. Let's go for complete transparency and let public information really be public information. If the government really is overreaching, the outrage should be enough to throttle them back. And maybe they aren't; maybe this really is in the public interest. Now we can find out. Either way, it's going to force a resolution.

    On another positive side note, this'll also gut the cottage ripoff industry that's grown around public records research. You shouldn't have to pay some PI wannabe $$ to walk across the street and meet his records-room friend at the Capitol.
    • by garcia (6573)
      Technically the information is available to everyone by law, but it's such a pain to get it that nobody bothers.

      The only people that bother are exactly the people that probably shouldn't have access to it.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Wordplay (54438)
        I don't know if I agree with you. If it's public, everyone should have access. If it shouldn't be public, it should be taken out of the searchable network. Either way, this gets all the cards on the table.

        By and large, I do think anything the government tracks, short of an active investigation, should be available publically. Transparency is an important check; I wish we had it now with the current administration.

        If you're concerned about embarrassing or damaging information being fossilized in public r
    • Start with the premise that every piece of information that is out there is "yours".

      If you track a person for any reason, you must let that person know you're tracking them and what information you have about them. Even government.

      That's all. Beyond that, you just need to let human nature and outrage do the rest. The privacy issue will be sorted out properly in no time.
  • by Nephster (203800) on Monday April 30, 2007 @09:10PM (#18936239)
    The Wisconsin Circuit Court Access (WCCA) [wicourts.gov] ?

    That site allows you to search any court case in WI. There are limitations - minors often aren't on there, and certain other cases are blocked from public access as well. But overall this has been a *good* thing.

    Hell, I even once ran a girl I had started dating through there - and turned up three shoplifting convictions.

    We always went to her place after that... :-)

    • by QuantumG (50515)
      Well, for a start, I'm sure Google's search engine would actually let you search the full text of the case by keyword.

      This stupid form wants me to know case numbers or people involved.. I just wanna know what copyright cases have been prosecuted in the last year.

  • I'm tired of sites like Domania or any of a gazillion foreclosure sites make money by selling you information that is of public record. Why do I have to pay to find out if a used car I want to buy has been in an accident, when that information is available in public records? Google is not talking about publishing stuff that isn't already public record -- they're publishing stuff that HAS ALREADY HAD THE MERITS OF BEING PUBLIC DEBATED -- that's how these things became public records in the first place. S
  • ORLY 2? (Score:1, Redundant)

    I don't know what was offtopic [slashdot.org] about the post, except that maybe I went so far as to point out obvious discrepecies in the almighty Googleplex. Nothing against QuantumG, but I wonder what they posted that made things so hated.

    So what? I'll post it again.

    While Google pushes to open up public records, they neglect to include the X-Originating-IP, or any information which would help e-mail recipients determine where e-mail came from, on e-mail from Gmail. All Gmail e-mail appears to originate from a 10. IP a
    • They are talking about increasing access to already public records.

      There is nothing inherantly "public" about the IP address of the computer I happen to be sitting at when sending an email. You might like to have it for some reason but it is arguably private information, not public.
  • Very, very bad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Angst Badger (8636) on Monday April 30, 2007 @09:54PM (#18936553)
    I'm sure there will be a steady stream of eager users for stalker.google.com long before it emerges from beta.

    I'm guessing that it's cluelessness on the part of Google management, but I hope someone there gives some thought to what will happen to their "do no evil" public image when the body count from their negligence first crests over three digits.
    • I'm guessing that it's cluelessness on the part of Google management, but I hope someone there gives some thought to what will happen to their "do no evil" public image when the body count from their negligence first crests over three digits.

      Who says it hasn't already? It's not like the Chinese government is exactly open about how many people it "re-educates," and you really have no idea what level of cooperation their mainland subsidiary has with the government. Even if they're not in triple-digits yet, gi
  • They are wrong. This is information for the public, not just some jack booted law enforcement agency. So, in my infinite wisdom, I declare that public information being conveniently available to the public is a good thing. Non believers will be summarily executed at midnight.
  • Google Is Creepy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by chromozone (847904) on Monday April 30, 2007 @10:20PM (#18936707)
    Google plays along with China in censoring but it lobbys in the US for opening government records? While at the same time its board is advising it's sharholders to not vote for proposals to bar any "proactive" censorship (and Google is censoring a lot)? Google is getting creepy and I already use another search engine to get unbiased results. Google's board objects to anticensorship proposal http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/googles-boar d-objects-anti-censorship-proposal/story.aspx?guid =%7BE4924442-BA3A-4F47-A5B8-DCA66F1A9CB0%7D [marketwatch.com]
  • I'd like to have the name and address of every legitimate business in the United States, for web site legitimacy validation. [sitetruth.com] I've purchased databases which contain an approximation to that information, but that's mostly phone book data, not Government data.

    More business records need to be easily available. This varies from state to state now. Corporation records are usually freely available, although a few states (notably Delaware) charge for address information. Every US state has their own format;

    • by cdrguru (88047)
      In looking at the sitetruth.com web site I see that my companies web site would come up with a neutral rating. Obviously, this is intended to indicate to the user that the site cannot be involved in commerce or if it is it lacks legitimacy. I see this as a huge problem.

      Check out www.infinadyne.com. There is no SLL certificate for that web page. All SSL activity is done through a third party merchant which absorbs all of the credit card fraud we are subjected to - which is considerable. Were we to host
      • by Animats (122034)

        Actually, that site got a "no rating" because it's listed in the Open Directory in a category that wasn't unambiguously commercial. That's not bad, just neutral. If you get the red circle with the bar through it, that's bad.

        If we can find the name and address of the owner of the site on a commercial site, it gets a "?" rating, since that's required for businesses. A green checkmark requires third party verification of business identity, either via SSL or some other source. Right now, as well as SSL ce

  • easier to mine (Score:3, Insightful)

    by john_uy (187459) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @01:01AM (#18937537)
    the difference though if you can search the records electronically is that it will be easier to mine the information. that will be very difficult with printed records limiting the scope of malicious activities.
  • Google is very keen to make the world's information open and accessible to all; however it is very coy about saying anything about itself -- how many data centers; how many servers; etc, etc.

    When will Google be a bit more open about itself ?

  • The move is being hailed by groups such as OpenTheGovernment.org, but the Electronic Privacy Information Center expressed concerns, given what they call Google's "checkered past" with regard to privacy on the Internet.

    Google's mandate is "to organize the world's information". Like it or not, this includes information about you. If there is stuff about you that you don't want Google to know, don't put it on the Internet and don't give it to anyone who could possibly one day leak it to the internet (i.e. th

  • by hey! (33014) on Tuesday May 01, 2007 @09:02AM (#18940105) Homepage Journal
    While the social security number issue is important, it barely scrapes the surface when it comes to the dangers of doing this.

    Open government records exist to ensure government accountability.

    For example, court records exist to prove that the operations of the courts are fair, impartial and proper.

    However, when incorporated into private databases (in this I include search engine indices) the character of these records changes tremendously. For example, if you are sued by your landlord, future landlords will be able to search the records, using it as an intelligence database on you, not a record of the operation of the government. Likewise, if you had a disgruntled employee who files complaints about alleged violations of state regulations, then potential employees and investors could be deterred from doing business with you.

    Placing public records in private datasets alters the nature of the records.

    The problem is that in the US, the legal notion of privacy is broken. It was broken by technology.

    In the US, we have a libertarian notion of privacy that is based on some simple dichotomies: public/private, disclosed/undisclosed. Information is either of a public nature, in which case it is fair game to ferret out and publish, or it is of a private nature, in which case you are protected from intrusion. It is either undisclosed, which means that if it is of a private nature it is safe, or it is disclosed, in which case anybody who has the data in hand is welcome to publish it to the world. The only exception are those who have a specially recognized duty of confidentiality, such as doctors and lawyers.

    The reason that this is a libertarian notion is that it seeks to preserve the freedom of anybody who receives data to do whatever they please with it. That is why when you give your name and address to a vendor, that vendor can turn around and sell that information, as well as information about what you have purchased, to somebody else. While US law forbids using this information in a credit report, it does not clearly forbid using it for investigative purposes such as a background check. Even if you construe a usage of this information as a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, since it is not part of your credit report, you have no way of knowing that it is being used in a background check or by identity thieves or stalkers.

    Our notions about privacy tend to be centered around the concepts of non-disclosure, but the issue of privacy is much deeper. Privacy, in my view, is the right of the individual to choose and act autonomously without unreasonable interference by outside parties. Limiting informational privacy to protection of non-disclosed facts falls far short of protecting what we expect privacy to secure, which is nothing less than individual liberty. Nowhere is the threat to individual liberty greater than in the use of government records for purposes other than ensuring the proper operation of government. As an individual, you are not free to avoid appearance in such records. If you are sued, your name, address, and information about your doings goes into a public record. This is true even if you are subpoenaed. What is worse, individual bits of data about you can be assembled from various public record sources to create a picture of your private life, even if no single fact in isolation reveals much.

    In 1972, the US Department of Health Education and Welfare published a report called "Records, Computers and the Rights of Citizens". It was a very early look into the impact of computer record keeping on privacy. The report, started under Secretary Elliot Richardson, recognized the privacy dangers inherent in using data for purposes other than. Richardson, whose integrity and impartiality was widely admired on both sides of the isle, left his position in HEW to take over as Attorney General during the mushrooming Watergate scandal, and he was replaced by Caspar Weinberger, known to current generations as an early
    • by Wordplay (54438)
      You make some interesting points.

      Truly, I think the key to this argument is "what should I expect to be private?" Ease of collation was always a BS mitigating factor--it was only going to get easier as tech marched on, as anyone since the database was invented could have told you. Obviously, there are a handful of things that -must- be private to make society work, such as medical or legal disclosures to a professional advocate.

      But isn't the solution to saying "so and so entity will do evil things with al

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