Google proudly announces today: “partnerships with the states of Arizona, California, Utah and Virginia to make it easier to search for hard-to-find public information on state government websites.”
Hard to find no more. Thanks? to Google.
What “hard-to-find” information about the citizens of the states of Arizona, California, Utah and Virginia will no longer be hard to find at Google.com as well?
Individuals’ Social Security numbers, for starters.
According to Google:
These partnerships developed as both Google and officials with the four state governments recognized that the public is increasingly turning to search engines like Google to access government services, but that a significant share of the information on state agency websites is not included in its index of information sources on the web. As a result, many online government services can be difficult for the public to find.
In January 2007 comments to the Identity Theft Task Force of the Federal Trade Commission, The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) stated:
Government and private agencies that collect and store excessive amounts of often unnecessary personal information in systems that lack adequate privacy and security safeguards. The best long-term approach to the problem of identity theft is to minimize the collection of personal information and to develop alternative technologies and organizational practices.
Minimize the collection of personal information by the government? That is NOT search engine music to Google’s ears:
J.L. Needham, who manages Google's public-sector content partnerships, said at least 70% of visitors to government websites get there by using commercial search engines. But too often, he said, Web searches do not turn up the information people are looking for simply because government computer systems aren't programmed in a way that allows commercial search engines to access their databases.
Still, if users can't get the information they're looking for, they blame the search engine, not the government, Needham lamented. The remedy, which Google has been working on with state technology officers for roughly six months, is to create virtual roadmaps by which search engines can find the databases that store public records.
"We have a vested interest in ensuring that the results we provide in every area, including government services, are high-quality, authoritative and trustworthy," he said (as cited by the Associated Press).
Vested Google interest in the personal records of state residents indeed.
Marc Rotenberg, EPIC executive director though said many public health and financial records shouldn't necessarily be widely available because they often contain citizens' Social Security numbers.
Among much other personal, private, NO need for Google’s spiders to know data.
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