Friday, January 20, 2006

DoJ Search Requests

cross-posted from Asymmetric Design blog

Various people talking about the dispute between Google and the US Department of Justice (DoJ), including Boing Boing, Search Engine Watch, Emergent Chaos, and my old colleague Graham Shevlin.

One line of discussion relates to privacy. Some commentators are praising Google for resisting the US Government’s demands for data, when its competitors have apparently complied.

But there is another important consideration, which appears relevant to Google’s position. There is an huge gap (asymmetry) between the information requirement (as stated by the DoJ) and the data on Google’s database. (See especially Danny Sullivan’s post at SearchEngineWatch.)

So the DoJ is hoping to solve a complex problem with very large amounts of data? Does it really make sense for the DoJ to copy the raw data from Google onto its own processors? In a service-oriented grid-enabled world, it would seem to make more sense (and raise fewer privacy concerns as well) for the DoJ to collaborate with Google (and its competitors) - to compose intelligent and relevant analytical enquiries that can be run by Google (as a service, albeit commandeered by the Government) to help solve the DoJ’s problem.

Of course Google is an interested party in the outcome of the DoJ’s deliberations, but does engaging it as a trusted partner in the analysis really increase its ability to bias the outcome in a self-interested way? And if it provides knowledge and metadata services rather than raw data, this might mitigate the threat to its position as a trusted custodian of personal search records?

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