Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Big Brother--the government, not the TV show

It's hard to actually conceive of what its like to have our basic civil liberties infringed here in America, because most of us have been living lives of relative freedom. Even if the news media is not bringing up the question of impeachment with the Bush administration's illegal surveillance yet, it is important that we all realize what a fundamental invasion of civil liberties this executive has engaged in. As this New York Times article suggests, even stupid internet searches could be fair game, part of the Justice Department's effort to "fight porn":

Kathryn Hanson, a former telecommunications engineer who lives in Oakland, Calif., was looking at BBC News online last week when she came across an item about a British politician who had resigned over a reported affair with a "rent boy."

It was the first time Ms. Hanson had seen the term, so, in search of a definition, she typed it into Google. As Ms. Hanson scrolled through the results, she saw that several of the sites were available only to people over 18. She suddenly had a frightening thought. Would Google have to inform the government that she was looking for a rent boy - a young male prostitute?

Ms. Hanson, 45, immediately told her boyfriend what she had done. "I told him I'd Googled 'rent boy,' just in case I got whisked off to some Navy prison in the dead of night," she said.

Ms. Hanson's reaction arose from last week's reports that as part of its effort to uphold an online pornography law, the Justice Department had asked a federal judge to compel Google to turn over records on millions of its users' search queries. Google is resisting the request, but three of its competitors - Yahoo, MSN and America Online - have turned over similar information.

No comments: