Congressman promises greater scrutiny for search companies

In a direct response to the Google subpoena, Rep. Edward Markey of Mass. will propose legislation limiting the personal information Internet companies can collect.

The case of the US v Google has created shockwaves among users, as people start to think about just how much personally identifying information Google and the other search giants collect. The shockwaves have hit Washington as Rep. Edward Market (D-Mass) announced plans to introduce legislation to limit what they can collect. A Markey press release states:

“Internet search engines provide an extraordinary service, but the preservation of that service does not rely on a bottomless, timeless database that can do great damage despite good intentions,” said Rep. Markey.  “I will be introducing a bill to prohibit the storage of personally identifiable information in internet data bases beyond a reasonable period of time.”

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.

The corporate response surely would be that entire business models rely on being able to exploit that data to deliver more and better features to users, that meddling in such a fundamental piece of the business model would endanger the companies and the structural support they give to the Internet. That doesn't fly entirely but there is an argument that user data is much more tightly interwoven with products and features than it is for cable companies.