Whither transparency

Whither transparency

Summary: David Berlind is appalled at the DOJ for asking for information on search data from MSN, AOL, Yahoo! and Google.

TOPICS: Big Data

David Berlind is appalled at the DOJ for asking for information on search data from MSN, AOL, Yahoo! and Google.  Google's been lauded on all sides for this decision, but I wonder why.   Google isn't doing this to protect their customers.  They're doing it for the PR value and to protect business secrets. 

The DOJ is asking for the data to answer a question that comes up over and over again in court cases related to online pornography: do filters work well enough?  The ACLU and other litigants use the argument that "filters work well and therefore there is no compelling government interest" as a pillar of their cases.  Leaving aside the merits (or lack thereof) of these bills, I think it's disingenuous to say "of course filtering works" and then say "you can't have the data you want to determine that for yourself." 

Transparency seems to be fine for everyone else.  I can think of a number of ways Google could have cooperated and negotiated reasonable protections for it's data.  In the end, this really isn't about privacy--it's about marketing and PR. 

Topic: Big Data

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    If a government made a policy, everyone expects them to be open and transperant.

    Its only fair that when the government wants to verify something, companies and individuals be open and transperant.

  • Somewhat naive

    I think this is a somewhat naive take on the government's motivations. If they really wanted to find out the effectiveness of web filtering technology, they certainly have the resources to conduct extensive testing of the products on the market within a controlled environment. The outcome of such tests would provide objective, unbiased data to support or refute their position. Are you familiar with the saying "There's lies, damn lies, and statistics". The only possible use I can see the government having for the data they've requested is so they can slice and dice it under the guise of statistical analysis to support their position, accurate or not. For instance, I don't believe data available from Google would have any indication of which users actually have filtering software installed on their computer, nor could it tell how the filtering software was configured. Without that information, you can't accurately tell how well filtering software works no matter how much Google data you have. As for businesses being held to the same standards as government, I can't say I completely agree with that either. While I certainly agree that businesses should be held accountable for their actions, I believe the government should always be held to a higher standard simply because they have the power to force compliance through law while a business can't.
    • RE: Somewhat naive

      Actually, I don't think it's naive at all. I didn't say hand over everything and let them do what they want. I merely said Google could have negotiated any number of agreements to control the use of the data and they didn't.

      As for the government's use of the data, I don't know what they want to do with it and I think you're making some leaps in assuming you do.