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Google Pushes To Open Public Records

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the whole-lotta-redacting-going-on dept.

Google 121

AlHunt sends us an AP story on Google's push to help states open up their data to online searchers. Google is going about this in an evenhanded way, according to the story, and the results of its labors — initially in Arizona, California, Utah, and Virginia — will be available to all search engines, not just theirs. The move is being hailed by groups such as OpenTheGovernment.org, but the Electronic Privacy Information Center expressed concerns, given what they call Google's "checkered past" with regard to privacy on the Internet.

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Googles "checkered past"? What mine? (3, Informative)

Richard McBeef (1092673) | more than 7 years ago | (#18935875)

Now not only are my stupid usenet posts from the early 1990s going to be available, so are my other "youthful indescretions". Great.

Re:Googles "checkered past"? What mine? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18936147)

Only n00bz and other idiots use Google. Just ClustyFuck [clusty.com] it.

--
Is it weird that I'm semi-erect right now?

Re:Googles "checkered past"? What mine? (1)

Richard McBeef (1092673) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936273)

Only n00bz and other idiots use Google.

My last post to usenet predates Google by several years. Hell, it even predates deja news which is now Google groups. Deja is/was still the best idea ever, by the way.

Porn (3, Interesting)

Hao Wu (652581) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936297)

Do you think that models and actresses from the 1970s through mid-90s ever imagined their sex scenes would be available for FREE AND EASY download to ANYONE on the planet?

Talk about "youthful indiscretions". That's gotta hurt.

Re:Porn (5, Funny)

Hack'n'Slash (3463) | more than 7 years ago | (#18937055)

LINKS PLEASE!!!!

Re:Porn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18939155)

1. http://www.myfreepaysite.com/ [myfreepaysite.com] (my favorite)

2. http://www.sexuploader.com/ [sexuploader.com] (bit of limitation, but great)

About 1.: need to create an account only (free). If mplayer is used in combination of mozplugger, download is also possible.

About 2.: i couldnt manage to download....plays using flash. Please let me know right here if anyone could manage to download the stuffs out there.

enjoy!!

Mod Parent Down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18939927)

Clearly he has never seen 70's porn.
We do NOT need that stuff resurfacing.

Re:Porn (1)

evildogeye (106313) | more than 6 years ago | (#18937621)

Interesting point, although this concept of "free and easy download to anyone on the planet" certainly doesn't seem to be affecting the amount of new adult material being generated.

Re:Porn (1)

StarfishOne (756076) | more than 6 years ago | (#18937857)

"the amount of new adult material being penetrated."


This is how I read it.. I just love my associative memory, especially combined with lack of sleep. ;)


Freud would have been so proud of me! :P

Re:Googles "checkered past"? What mine? (1)

LordSnooty (853791) | more than 6 years ago | (#18938845)

Not your "checkered past", no. Your "chequered past"

Sweet! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18935879)

We're going to change governments from Corporate Republic to Virtual Democracy! Then we'll build the Nanopedia wonder.

Re:Sweet! (-1, Offtopic)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#18935927)

heh, I was playing Civ 4 yesterday.

First game: lost in record time.
Second game: lost after excrutiating battle.
Third game: no war at all, won with space victory.

Uninstalled.

So when... (5, Funny)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 7 years ago | (#18935887)

So when are Google, the Library of Congress and the CIA going to combine and be simply known as the CIC?

(Literary reference. Hope I didn't get first post.)

Re:So when... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18936061)

I give up - here's my geek card - what was the reference?

Re:So when... (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936077)

I'm thinking Snow Crash, but I'm not 100% positive.

Re:So when... (2, Informative)

Fatal67 (244371) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936109)

Snow Crash.

Hiro was a "freelance stringer for the CIC, the Central Intelligence Corporation of Langley, Virginia"

Privacy (5, Insightful)

NaCh0 (6124) | more than 7 years ago | (#18935897)

If privacy advocates are concerned about public records becoming more easily accessible, they should get laws passed that limit the collection of such data by the government. It seems like Google gets the criticism because their search engine is too good at doing what it is designed to do.

Re:Privacy (3, Insightful)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | more than 7 years ago | (#18935975)

NO MORE LAWS!

Let me repeat that and see if I can get around the "we'll tell you how to say what you want to say" filter.

NO MORE LAWS!

As if we don't have enough of the useless things already. All they do is cause problems and criminalize the very things they were meant to protect.

NO MORE LAWS!

It's time to start equilibrating the government. The Federal Government (especially) has done nothing but expand, and expand, and expand, for 200 years. It's time for them to retract, and shrink, and be pruned back until they find their proper niche. The USA is beginning to resemble the USSR in everything but semantics.

NO MORE LAWS!

Re:Privacy (3, Funny)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936003)

Maybe we should make a law that there can be no more laws.

Welcome to human nature.

Better Idea - Word Limits (2, Interesting)

Shihar (153932) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936443)

Maybe we should make a law that there can be no more laws.

You joke, but I could think of a good law that do almost that. How about a law that states that the number of words that can be used to create laws is now fixed at its current levels. So, pretend that you want to pass a law with 10,000 words in it. That would mean that you would need to either remove a law, or reword a current law such that you free up 10,000 words.

What would be the result? Well, I bet you would find government pork would drop like a rock and laws would become much simpler to understand. Shit, need some words to pass the new health care law? Let's axe an old law giving pig farmer subsidies to do anti-terror research. Trying to pass a new tax bill? If you try and make it archaic and full of loopholes you are going to have to go hack up some OTHER archaic and richly worded law... or just write a simple law that makes sense as a normal human can read.

I could see only good things coming out of this.

Re:Better Idea - Word Limits (3, Informative)

lilomar (1072448) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936589)

Something like this [downsizedc.org] ?

Re:Better Idea - Word Limits (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936713)

Great, then you just need a law that defines what words have what meanings and make it cover every possible use of that word. Essentially you end up with a new language just for writing laws in. I suggest we call this new language "Newspeak".

Re:Better Idea - Word Limits (1)

paxmaniac (988091) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936807)

You joke, but I could think of a good law that do almost that. How about a law that states that the number of words that can be used to create laws is now fixed at its current levels. So, pretend that you want to pass a law with 10,000 words in it. That would mean that you would need to either remove a law, or reword a current law such that you free up 10,000 words.

Abreviating statutory prose is a commendable postulate. A diminished abundance of words will surely result in more lucid legislation.

Re:Better Idea - Word Limits (2, Insightful)

irc.goatse.cx troll (593289) | more than 7 years ago | (#18937007)

Then you end up with vauge laws being misapplied.

My solution would be to make all new laws have an expirey date of no more than 5 years at which point it will need to be re-voted upon. Think that would clog the system? Fuck yes it would, until they start saying "no" to renewing frivilous or outdated laws.

All existing laws should then expire in 20 years unless renewed under the new system. That way we dont have legal anarchy, but we do weed out the old ones quick enough.

Re:Better Idea - Word Limits (1)

complete loony (663508) | more than 7 years ago | (#18937505)

Nah, I think we need a kind of Turing complete law interpreter / compiler. With a heavy use of automated test cases. Every change should be applied to the existing legislation base, with it's impact on other previous laws and test cases clearly described, or it will fail to compile. If it doesn't compile, or doesn't reach a certain level of test coverage, it can't be voted on and committed to the repository.

Re:Privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#18938969)

What's in that for government?

Re:Privacy (2, Informative)

daeg (828071) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936051)

There are many laws that dictate the length of public records. Repealing those laws and correcting existing laws will reduce complexity and overall reduce cost over time.

One of the parts of a real solution is something like 'cvs blame' for every single word in every single law passed. Want to know who added every single phrase. Yes, even punctuation, grammar, spelling, and capitalization changes should be tracked, after all, "I helped my Uncle Jack off a horse" is distinctly different than "I helped my uncle jack off a horse".

Re:Privacy (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936279)

You have hit upon the biggest problem. When our law enforcement services try to uphold the laws, they are often strapped with doing so in the manner in which others interpret those laws, and that is a problem. Laws are seldom repealed or revised, so the true intent of laws gets lost. When that happens, rather than review/amend we often just implement new laws and leave the old ones to die silently on the books.

There are many crazy laws on the books that were intended to curb particular behaviors that no longer apply. Each government body at the local, state, and federal levels should be in a constant condition of review. Some amendments may indeed require SCOTUS action before any change, but there are a ton of other laws that can be changed without harm, such as being able to walk a horse through town without a diaper on it or any of the other 'crazy' laws that are still on the books.

Through review and revision I hope that the intent of current laws will be made more clear, more relevant and more useful. By starting with any law or legal situation currently under review it should be possible to do this. Some starting points that I might point out; original intent and current use of marijuana laws, immigration laws, privacy laws, fair use, copyright, patent, marriage, religion vs. state, regulation of big businesses such as entertainment, oil, energy, military contractors etc.

It might be useful to establish a group to review the constitution and the system of checks and balances that were intended by the founders, and their usage now.

Re:Privacy (1)

spikedvodka (188722) | more than 6 years ago | (#18939717)

I think there's another big issue. Have you ever tried to read any legislation going through congress recently? Let me tell you, Any DB admin would be proud.

Title X, section Y, Paragraph Z is hereby amended to read foo
Title X_1, Section Y_1, Paragraph z_1 is hereby amended to read bar
Inser into Title X_2, Section Y_2 is amended by inserting Paragraph Z_2 to read as Baz
etc. ad nausium

Then go look at Title X_527, Section Y_527, Paragraph Z_527 and it read: Title X_X, Section Y_Y, Paragraph Z_Z is amended to read Qux

it'll make your head spin following all of the references, no wonder nobody knows what is really going on

Re:Privacy (1)

DAtkins (768457) | more than 6 years ago | (#18940615)

Totally agree with everything you said except for the "let's repeal making horses wear diapers law". Cause man, they can't use a toilet at all :)

Re:Privacy (1)

644bd346996 (1012333) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936293)

If you hate how much the federal government has expanded, why are you opposed to putting restrictions on how they can expand? It would seem that the best way to oppose "big government" is to pass laws or amendments that restrict the government's powers.

Laws are not inherently bad. A well written piece of legislation can unambiguously take powers away from the government.

Wrong (1)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936363)

Those who write the rules know the loopholes. The same applies to software exploits.

Re:Privacy (1)

averyfisher (1062070) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936395)

New laws are necessary. Instead, we should have expiration dates on ALL LAWS - say maybe 10 years. That way, only important, crucial laws get renewed, and it also serves to limit new legislation, otherwise legislators will be so bogged down evaluating old laws that they won't have time to pass new ones.

Re:Privacy (1)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936557)

That's a decent enough idea, as long as we allow that the mother document (eg. The Constitution for the Fed, the various Constitutions for the State governments) is allowed to persist indefinitely. With any luck we could even have a lifespan on the various amendments so that each new generation could reaffirm its approval of modifications to the mother document. No more being sold into slavery by our great-grandfathers whom we never had a chance to meet.

It passes a logic test, as well: one "lifetime" should be more than enough to pass those laws which are necessary for the proper governance of a kingdom. If the code of laws cannot be reduced to a set which can be renewed within each generation then it's a Darwinian sign that something is dreadfully wrong.

Re:Privacy (1)

flonker (526111) | more than 7 years ago | (#18937167)

This measure hereby renews all of the laws of 1907 to be good for another 100 years. All in favour? All opposed? OK, let's move on.

Humans are lazy, they'll put all the laws in one measure and pass it at the start of the year, and that's it. Your new system is subverted from within.

Re:Privacy (1)

Goaway (82658) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936545)

All they do is cause problems and criminalize the very things they were meant to protect.

Yeah, like that dumbass law against killing. All it does is make it illegal to stay alive!

Re:Privacy (2, Insightful)

maop (309499) | more than 7 years ago | (#18937437)

How about no more knee-jerk sloganeering?

Re:Privacy (4, Insightful)

Holmwood (899130) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936025)

The above poster has it exactly right. I'll amplify. We shouldn't be worrying about governments redacting personal information, or even it being accessible via search engines; we should be worried about them collecting it in the first place.

Sure, the IRS needs to know your income, and the DMV should know whether or not you have 10 recent speeding tickets.

But I find the number of pieces of information that State, Federal, state-funded bodies, and legislative mandates (e.g. corporate information gathering and disclosure pursuant to governmental affirmative action directives) require from you seems to be going up and up.

This is rather disturbing.

Redacting, as the article suggests, is merely a half step. Setting a sunset on how long most information about you is available is a full step, and not collecting the information in the first place is better yet.

Re:Privacy (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936049)

I'll amplify.
[..]
This is rather disturbing.
I don't disagree, but rather than just "amplifying", how about expanding a little.

Why is it disturbing to you?

Re:Privacy (4, Interesting)

Holmwood (899130) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936145)

Fair question. I like privacy.

I also don't like the idea of some bureaucracy's picture of me defining me, especially if it's distorted.

I lean, slightly, to a libertarian perspective. Your mileage may vary; fair enough.

I really don't like the idea in our hyper-sensitive culture of some one (say) being able to look up (and granted, not all of these can be looked up -- at present) my ethnicity, my voting history, or every letter/report/form I've had to file with the government, whether or not I belonged to a gay/straight alliance in high school, or a Christian fellowship club in university. Or whether I asked for the Kosher or the Halal meal on my last airline flight.

These, frankly, are no one's business but my own, my family's and close personal friends.

I see data-mining as an expanding source of derivative information about people, to a disturbing degree.

There certainly are legitimate things (in my personal view) for people to know about. Does someone have a criminal record? Are they a sexual predator? Child molester? Have they been disbarred? What is their credit history (if a lender).

But I don't see increasing governmental information -- even if its universally accessible -- on us all as a uniform positive.

Let me now turn the question back on you. Do you? If so, can you please elucidate?

Re:Privacy (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936205)

I'm more worried about the use to which governments have historically put such information. Namely, people in power use their power to gather and collate information to maintain their power. First it is anyone who is a "threat" to their power is placed under greater scrutiny. Then it is anyone who is "opposed" to the current government. Then it is anyone who is at all "interested" in government. Then it is everyone. China is currently at the opposed stage and is quickly moving on to the interested stage.

What happens to these people? Often they are imprisoned. Often they are killed.

My interest in privacy is political.

Re:Privacy (2, Interesting)

Holmwood (899130) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936287)

As they said in the 60's, 'the personal is the political'. I don't think our two concerns are infinitely far apart.

I admit, my mindset in responding to your question was shaped by TFA -- namely, wide access to lots of information gathered on you.

Nope, I don't like the uses governments have historically found for such information.

I would again point out something that you haven't addressed -- perhaps because you took it as read -- the combination of search engines and datamining seems to raise the stakes. Being able to readily collate disparate data on a single individual is... disturbing.

About 15-20 years ago, IIRC, someone in Ottawa, Canada, dumped a shoebox containing microfiche tax records for 16 million Canadians. That'd be the equivalent of perhaps 150-some million American citizens' tax records.

It got turned in to a journalist. Today? It'd probably be sold for identity theft -- and the records would be digital and would spread like wildfire.

Couple that with an HMO/HCP dataleak and a VISA/MC/Eurocard dataleak... and you've got everything you want to know about millions of people, potentially up to the level of blackmail if your datamining is good enough.

Sure, I agree with you we need to be skeptical -- and very worried -- about what governments are doing. But that isn't the only thing.

Best,
-Holmwood

Re:Privacy (1)

msouth (10321) | more than 6 years ago | (#18938799)

About 15-20 years ago, IIRC, someone in Ottawa, Canada, dumped a shoebox containing microfiche tax records for 16 million Canadians. That'd be the equivalent of perhaps 150-some million American citizens' tax records.


I think you've got your exchange rate the wrong way round.

Re:Privacy (1)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 6 years ago | (#18939663)

He's saying "equivalent" meaning the same percentage of the population. 16 million Canadians is almost half the population of Canada, so consider losing the American tax records for half the population.

Of course, its a stupid comparison unless you're just trying to establish severity to Canadians. The same shoebox in the USA would still hold the same number of tax records, and whether 50% of the population or not, 16 million upset citizens is a lot.

Interconnections. (1)

Irvu (248207) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936543)

The Knotty problem becomes one of interconnections. Sure department X needs to know fact A and department Y needs to know fact B, and sure we have laws blocking X from collecting B and Y from collecting A but when all such records are public and publicly searchable then the point is rendered moot, then X can know B and Y can know A and the stalker down the street can know both.

This is, in fact, just what the late and unlamented Total Information Awareness project was all about and what private companies such as ChoicePoint are still about, linking otherwise innocuous information so Big Brother doesn't have to.

As has been correctly noted (e.g. with Census data being used to hunt down Asian-Americans during WWII for no good reason) laws preventing one department from sharing with another are moot when such sharing is possible. They become even more moot when all that it takes is a few seconds with google.

While I agree with you that laws restricting the info collected are and will be a good thing, I feel that they alone are not the sword to cut this Gordian Knot.

the only way to defeat the encroachment (2, Interesting)

misanthrope101 (253915) | more than 6 years ago | (#18937707)

...is universality. Sort of the same reason some Democrats were pushing for a military draft without as many exemptions--if it applies to everyone, a lot fewer people are willing to go down that road. If everyone's information is available, with no exceptions for being a Senator or CEO of a fortune 500 company or a famous actor or famous conservative talk-show host, then enough important (i.e. rich) people will be opposed to scuttle it and inadvertently protect the privacy of us little people. But if your military record can magically become inaccessible, or the number of times you've been arrested for DUI can vanish, just because you're running for President, then we're screwed because the rest of us will still have no privacy. The only way to defeat the encroachment is to make the loss of privacy universal.

Re:Privacy (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936071)

If privacy advocates are concerned about public records becoming more easily accessible, they should get laws passed that limit the collection of such data by the government.
I think that would be a great step (even though it would probably cost billions to implement).

That said, it still doesn't do anything about the decades of State & Federal records that are full of SSNs and other 'private' information... which would also cost billions to do something about.

What privacy? (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 6 years ago | (#18938475)

An ex-girlfriend found me through public records. At the time I had an unlisted phone number and you could not find enough information online that I posted to get a street address, let alone what city and county I lived in.

How did she do it? Simple, many of the counties in my area post tax records for land, fully searchable. She simply picked county after county until she got mine. (its not good to have an uncommon last name)

So she not only had my street address she also could approximate my net worth based on the property values. It was even easy for her to tell how long I lived there.

The government is only concerned at laws restricting private companies and your information because they can take money from them when these companies screw up. Whereas themselves are immune to it, after all people are fallible.

It's gotta be better than Australia.. (2, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#18935911)

Where our government claims copyright on court cases and findings and other public documents. If you want a document, you order it from Go Print [qld.gov.au] . There's libraries in our court houses, like most the rest of the civilized world, but if you go in there in a pair of jeans the librarian will come over and ask if they can "help" and then ask you if you are a law student, and then ask you if you are a lawyer, and then ask you to leave.

Thankfully you can still read the laws without paying the government for a copy of them.

Re:It's gotta be better than Australia.. (2, Informative)

quarrel (194077) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936949)

Gee, or you can grab them off the web for free:

AustLii [austlii.edu.au]

Still isn't complete, but they're adding past cases to it very regularly.

I suspect that this is true in the rest of the western world, but legal systems were hardly ever going to be the first to embrace technology.

Note they're robots.txt (this is just the most important snippet):

# 14 August 2003 - unrestricted access to everything except cases
User-agent: *
Disallow: /au/cases/
Disallow: /au/other/HCATrans
Disallow: /au/other/hca/
Disallow: /nz/cases/
Disallow: /cgi-bin/
Disallow: /do/
Disallow: /do2/
Disallow: /form/
Disallow: /forms/
Disallow: /fcgi-bin/
Disallow: /rsjlibrary/rciadic

Apparantly they got complaints when people would egosurf and find their names from former court cases... (or their employer would etc etc) So they've "fixed" it.

Ok, ok, so its coverage of lots of local courts leaves a lot of holes, but its getting there. I think that the system, rather than any conspiracy, is more likely however. The idea that our government gets copyright in things it produces isn't inherently evil.

Projects like google's here though sound great. If they're sharing the data then all should be above board. It will most likely have the effect of forcing governments to collect LESS about us, as we'll all be so much more aware of what is out there.

--Q

Re:It's gotta be better than Australia.. (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#18937073)

Australia is the only nation in the world that claims copyright over documents produced by the government.

Everywhere else has the sense to recognise that works produced by the government are automatically in the public domain.

Re:It's gotta be better than Australia.. (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#18937171)

Everywhere else has the sense to recognise that works produced by the government are automatically in the public domain.

Uh ... I'm about 95% certain this isn't true -- most of the other Commonwealth countries are in the same boat.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crown_copyright [wikipedia.org]

As an American I think it's a pretty preposterous system, but then again I think it's ridiculous here in the States that works produced by contractors, being paid by the USG, aren't automatically in the public domain, and they aren't. So it's not even like things are peachy here with respect to government products.

Re:It's gotta be better than Australia.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18937317)

Apparantly they got complaints when people would egosurf and find their names from former court cases...

It's a little more nuanced than that ...

Take the spent convictions legislation in NSW. It's a criminal offence to inquire about someone's offences dating back more than 20 years (subject to certain exceptions of course). The cases we (AustLII) carry, are those from courts of record (ie Supreme/High Court) which have precedential value. They are meant to be used to establish what the law is, not to spy on individuals, who ought to have some right to privacy (especially in regard to "youthful indiscretions." We've had background checkers leaving feedback about various issues (clearly a misuse of our service), so if you're applying for a job keep your fingers crossed that you don't have the same (or similar) name to someone who has recently appealed a conviction!

One of the principles operating in Common Law jurisdictions is the fact that procedings of courts is (by default) open to public view. see Russell v Russell [austlii.edu.au] 134 CLR 495. The reason procedings are open, is not to add some form of condemnation to the individual parties involved in them, but to guarantee that the operation of the courts remains fair and free from corruption. Nor, in an age when only lawyers and law students with access to law reports, did the individuals involved have much to fear in the longer term (ie they would eventually be able to put their trials behind them p.i.).

That is to say in practice there was a difference in the information being "publically available" and actually being out there in the public for all to see. The more categorical advocates of open information (clearly we are advocates of open information!) are blind to this practical distinction and the very real threats the dissolution of it pose to individual people. A well-known search engine, for instance, at one time refused to respect our robots.txt files ("open information is open information"), so we had to block access to them. Thus the top-ranked result for AustLII was a connection refused page! I'm glad to say this has now been resolved.

How this will pan out remains to be seen. It may even be necessary, as I've heard a senior judge tout, to abandon openess at least in criminal matters. That would be a shame (and it would require the HC to overturn Russell).

ORLY? (-1, Offtopic)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | more than 7 years ago | (#18935945)

While Google pushes to open up public records, they neglect to include the X-Originating-IP, or any information which would help e-mail recipients determine where e-mail came from, on e-mail from Gmail. All Gmail e-mail appears to originate from a 10. IP address from within the depths of Google.

I guess it's just a matter of which set of principles is best suited to cover their , and which set of principles is best suited to generate good press, and which set of principles is best suited to please shareholders, and which set of principles is best suited to serve their business interests. The only dissappointment is that, for the scientific technologist, none of these principles serves to preserve truth and accuracy. The pie is carefully portioned out for only one purpose.

PROFIT.

I'm not opposed to profit. I'm opposed to fraud.

Re:ORLY? (0, Offtopic)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#18935977)

What the fuck are you on about exactly?

Way to rant.

Re:ORLY? (0, Offtopic)

Max Littlemore (1001285) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936219)

Can U spell hypocracy? [slashdot.org]

Re:ORLY? (1)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936301)

Can U spell hypocracy?

Well, we know you can't.

Re:ORLY? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18937043)

Did I just become aphasic or did that make no fucking sense?

Garbage Does Not Get In (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18935963)

Don't put it up on the web if you don't want people to find it. Fuck George Bush.

God no! (4, Insightful)

nog_lorp (896553) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936065)

Dear god, now anyone will be able to read public records. What is the world coming to?

Re:God no! (4, Insightful)

tymbow (725036) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936457)

I think you missed the privacy problem of public records - the issue is not whether such records are public or not but why they were made public. It was never intended that public records would be harvested by information brokers and marketers and data mined but that it exactly what will happen once easy access is provided to such data.

I don't mind (most) requirements for public records being public but what I do mind is when that data is then used for purposes other than for which it was intended. This is where we need privacy laws. I have no problem for example with having my name, address and phone number in the phone book for public use but I do have a problem when this information is abused by using it in ways that were not intended.

'Public' and 'Accessible' are not the same thing. (1)

raehl (609729) | more than 7 years ago | (#18937163)

I have a home loan. The fact that I have a home loan is a public record. The fact that I own a car is a public record. The fact that I am licensed to drive, in most states, is a public record. That I am registered to vote, and my address, is a public record.

All of those things probably should be public - i.e. if a particular party has a particular interest in those records, they should be able to walk down to the county courthouse or town hall or whatever and have access to them.

Historically, records have been public, but NOT EASILY ACCESSIBLE. The cost of accessing each individual record served as a barrier to accessing each record for trivial purposes.

But with technology, that barrier to access can be eliminated. So when accessing public records becomes trivial to do, what happens?

They get accessed for trivial purposes. For example, hardly a day goes by without me receiving some sort of offer to refinance my home loan. Voter registration is a public record. And they must be, if we are to guarantee free elections. But what happens when you can access all voter registrations (including addresses) in the country through Google? It's one thing when you suspect election fraud and have to walk down to the courthouse and inspect records; it's another thing entirely when you can run a query or event 200,000 queries and come up with the name and address of every registered voter in the country.

Just because a record is public does not mean it's a good thing that it can be found on Google.

Re:'Public' and 'Accessible' are not the same thin (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#18937275)

The cost of accessing each individual record served as a barrier to accessing each record for trivial purposes.
Why is that a problem?

But with technology, that barrier to access can be eliminated. So when accessing public records becomes trivial to do, what happens?
I don't know, you're the one telling the story.

They get accessed for trivial purposes.
Why is that a problem?

For example, hardly a day goes by without me receiving some sort of offer to refinance my home loan.
Why is that a problem?

It's one thing when you suspect election fraud and have to walk down to the courthouse and inspect records; it's another thing entirely when you can run a query or event 200,000 queries and come up with the name and address of every registered voter in the country.
Are you trying to suggest that being able to trivially determine if there has been election fraud is a bad thing?

Just because a record is public does not mean it's a good thing that it can be found on Google.
Why? Can you make an actual argument here or is "it just feels bad" supposed to convince us that nothing should ever change?

Re:'Public' and 'Accessible' are not the same thin (1)

droopycom (470921) | more than 6 years ago | (#18937739)

"I have a home loan. The fact that I have a home loan is a public record."
[...]
"Historically, records have been public, but NOT EASILY ACCESSIBLE."

I have a home loan too. I receive at least 1 offer to refinance or to open equity line of credit in my mail everyday.

Seems to me, the information was VERY ACCESSIBLE to obtain.

Off course, its not easily accessible by you and me, we would need to go find the proper county office, and the proper hours of operation of the service, which of course would be during work hours to find anything about it.

But those freaking lenders, they can pay some people who compile databases. The information is out there already accessible easily, just not to you.

This is wrong. If its public record I should be able to access it easily. I hope one day I can google my name and see what others are already seeing behind my back.

Re:'Public' and 'Accessible' are not the same thin (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 6 years ago | (#18938611)

Can I smack you with a dead fish?

I don 't own a home yet I get offers to refinance my home weekly. When my car loan was about to hit 3 years I started getting offers to refinance and extend my warranty. I have never voted, yet when i changed counties that I lived in I was suddenly called to jury duty for the first time. I discovered the local county already data mines the DMV looking for new people for jury duty.

What's the difference. companies and governments already data mine the public record. Oh and there are no barriers, that is an illusion that you are hanging on to. I want to be able to know information is being known about me, so I can hide it easier. I can't data mine about myself without lots of tedious work. 50 years ago all this information was still there. It was just done on paper. It was still legal to go looking through it. It just took longer.

Coming soon to google (3, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936095)

New tags to search for, like Mother's maiden name, social security number, schools attended and the name of the first pet, of the first car. A Google spokesman said, "You dont have to click on the phishes any more, we provide all they need ourselves!"

Re:Coming soon to google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18936319)

In Arizona, a news story on TV reported that, indeed SSAN numbers were showing up in a LOT of the old records (anything before 1960's). They (government) said they were working on it, but that is a huge amount of data.

I don't know the current state of birth certificates and marriage license documents, but it would seem like could reveal a mother's maiden name.

Re:Coming soon to google (1)

cduffy (652) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936511)

If information shouldn't be public, lobby your congresscritters (at the state level, mostly) to get it out of public records. Relying on the "security" of having something be inconvenient to access is a false security at best; all it does right now is limit access to this information to those willing to pay (not very much $$) to get at it. It's nothing but security through obscurity -- and while there are cases where that can be useful, giving folks a perception of privacy while they actually enjoy no such thing is hardly one of them.

By highlighting what information is available through public records, Google both helps promote government transparency, and makes it easy for folks to know what information is out there. Maybe if it's impossible to ignore how bad mothers' maiden name and SSN are for authentication tokens, people will stop using them as such. Imagine!

What about this? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18936101)

Would something like this be available for the public?
09
F9
11
02
9D
74
E3
5B
D8
41
56
C5
63
56
88
C0

Fantastic news from a privacy standpoint! (4, Insightful)

Wordplay (54438) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936155)

We've always maintained this weird security-through-obscurity dichotomy with public records. Technically the information is available to everyone by law, but it's such a pain to get it that nobody bothers

This has given people a false sense of security when it comes to government data collation. I don't think most people realize just how much public information this out there that anyone with a few bucks and who knows who to ask can see it. On the flip side, it means there's almost no public benefit from the government keeping the information because it can't be easily collated by a private citizen.

This is the best thing that could happen--let's dump it all out on the net and make it easy to see someone's entire public record. Let's go for complete transparency and let public information really be public information. If the government really is overreaching, the outrage should be enough to throttle them back. And maybe they aren't; maybe this really is in the public interest. Now we can find out. Either way, it's going to force a resolution.

On another positive side note, this'll also gut the cottage ripoff industry that's grown around public records research. You shouldn't have to pay some PI wannabe $$ to walk across the street and meet his records-room friend at the Capitol.

Re:Fantastic news from a privacy standpoint! (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936317)

Technically the information is available to everyone by law, but it's such a pain to get it that nobody bothers.

The only people that bother are exactly the people that probably shouldn't have access to it.

Re:Fantastic news from a privacy standpoint! (1, Insightful)

Wordplay (54438) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936697)

I don't know if I agree with you. If it's public, everyone should have access. If it shouldn't be public, it should be taken out of the searchable network. Either way, this gets all the cards on the table.

By and large, I do think anything the government tracks, short of an active investigation, should be available publically. Transparency is an important check; I wish we had it now with the current administration.

If you're concerned about embarrassing or damaging information being fossilized in public records, don't do anything embarrassing or damaging in public. It really is that simple.

Re:Fantastic news from a privacy standpoint! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18936321)

...let public information really be public information.

The information has always been publicly available at your local government agency. Most times records are free and the only cost is if you ask for a copy. Sometime they change an acceptable adminstrative fee for filing and handling of the records. If all the records are on the net, where will the states get the funding to run the offices? Raise taxes?

Re:Fantastic news from a privacy standpoint! (1)

Wordplay (54438) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936627)

If it's a public benefit to everyone, that's pretty much what taxes are for, yes. I'd much sooner see my tax dollars go to a public information network than corporate favoritism.

In practice, I suspect those admin/handling fees were pulled straight out of someone's rear as "what's the maximum they won't object to?" rather than reflecting any real cost. They're only unreasonable after they've been declared so in court.

Don't worry, you can have both! (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936817)

I'd much sooner see my tax dollars go to a public information network than corporate favoritism.

You say that like they're mutually exclusive.

Such a project, in reality, would be a giant boondoggle; I can almost imagine all the big IT implementors slavering over their keyboards writing up slick proposals for it. But in the end it would be overbudget, incomplete, behind schedule, poorly designed, and nearly impossible for a sane person to use without cringing, just like 99% of everything that's produced according to government specifications.

I've seen the way some much, much more limited projects can go pear-shaped ... a "public information network" would probably end up costing more than the Apollo program and end up being slightly less effective than Googling yourself.

Re:Don't worry, you can have both! (1)

Wordplay (54438) | more than 7 years ago | (#18937407)

Heh. Having been around the block once or twice myself, it's hard for me to disagree with you. Unfortunately, the alternative is to not innovate government procedures at all.

My hope is that Google is creating/pushing generic access APIs for the current electronic stores of public information, so that anyone can write a search engine (or tool) for it. As much as Google's been disappointing me lately by their new "be juts a little evil" policy, they're probably the guys to do that. Unfortunately, I'm not clear from the article.

Re:Fantastic news from a privacy standpoint! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18937089)

Guess what? This stuff was all set up when there was no concept
of anyone in the world having nearly instantaneous access to it.
If such a thing were known to be likely, things may well have been
organized differently.

Just because we can't put the toothpaste back in the tube doesn't
mean we should give up on privacy completely.

Re:Fantastic news from a privacy standpoint! (2, Insightful)

Wordplay (54438) | more than 7 years ago | (#18937387)

We already have. It's just that only people with lots of money or time or government support can reasonably collate the information.

Your current expectations of privacy reflect a misconception that obscurity is somehow the same thing as privacy. It's not and never was. This effort will draw a clear line between what's private and what isn't and correct any misconceptions.

Here's my idea on how to cure the privacy problem (1)

tkrotchko (124118) | more than 6 years ago | (#18939129)

Start with the premise that every piece of information that is out there is "yours".

If you track a person for any reason, you must let that person know you're tracking them and what information you have about them. Even government.

That's all. Beyond that, you just need to let human nature and outrage do the rest. The privacy issue will be sorted out properly in no time.

Re:Here's my idea on how to cure the privacy probl (1)

david_g17 (976842) | more than 6 years ago | (#18939755)

Great idea, yet another law that would be impossible to enforce. And if you think the government would abide by it, I've got a bridge to sell you. Before it could even be debated, it would require an escape clause for government agencies.

How is this different from (4, Informative)

Nephster (203800) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936239)

The Wisconsin Circuit Court Access (WCCA) [wicourts.gov] ?

That site allows you to search any court case in WI. There are limitations - minors often aren't on there, and certain other cases are blocked from public access as well. But overall this has been a *good* thing.

Hell, I even once ran a girl I had started dating through there - and turned up three shoplifting convictions.

We always went to her place after that... :-)

Re:How is this different from (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936857)

Well, for a start, I'm sure Google's search engine would actually let you search the full text of the case by keyword.

This stupid form wants me to know case numbers or people involved.. I just wanna know what copyright cases have been prosecuted in the last year.

So many good applications (1)

fishdan (569872) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936475)

I'm tired of sites like Domania or any of a gazillion foreclosure sites make money by selling you information that is of public record. Why do I have to pay to find out if a used car I want to buy has been in an accident, when that information is available in public records? Google is not talking about publishing stuff that isn't already public record -- they're publishing stuff that HAS ALREADY HAD THE MERITS OF BEING PUBLIC DEBATED -- that's how these things became public records in the first place. So, there shouldn't be any more debate about whether or not public records should be public. Or, if there is, the issue is one for your local governing body -- not Google

ORLY 2? (0, Redundant)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936535)

I don't know what was offtopic [slashdot.org] about the post, except that maybe I went so far as to point out obvious discrepecies in the almighty Googleplex. Nothing against QuantumG, but I wonder what they posted that made things so hated.

So what? I'll post it again.

While Google pushes to open up public records, they neglect to include the X-Originating-IP, or any information which would help e-mail recipients determine where e-mail came from, on e-mail from Gmail. All Gmail e-mail appears to originate from a 10. IP address from within the depths of Google.

I guess it's just a matter of which set of principles is best suited to cover their bu77s, and which set of principles is best suited to generate good press, and which set of principles is best suited to please shareholders, and which set of principles is best suited to serve their business interests. The only dissappointment is that, for the scientific technologist, none of these principles serves to preserve truth and accuracy. The pie is carefully portioned out for only one purpose.

PROFIT.

I'm not opposed to profit. I'm opposed to fraud.

There is no obvious discrepancy. (1)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936755)

They are talking about increasing access to already public records.

There is nothing inherantly "public" about the IP address of the computer I happen to be sitting at when sending an email. You might like to have it for some reason but it is arguably private information, not public.

Very, very bad (2, Interesting)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936553)

I'm sure there will be a steady stream of eager users for stalker.google.com long before it emerges from beta.

I'm guessing that it's cluelessness on the part of Google management, but I hope someone there gives some thought to what will happen to their "do no evil" public image when the body count from their negligence first crests over three digits.

What "do no evil" public image? (1)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#18937217)

I'm guessing that it's cluelessness on the part of Google management, but I hope someone there gives some thought to what will happen to their "do no evil" public image when the body count from their negligence first crests over three digits.

Who says it hasn't already? It's not like the Chinese government is exactly open about how many people it "re-educates," and you really have no idea what level of cooperation their mainland subsidiary has with the government. Even if they're not in triple-digits yet, give them time -- a few hundred Chinese dissidents is nothing compared to all that advertising they'll rake in.

Oh ... you meant over 100 Americans. Sorry.

Electronic Privacy Information Center (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936573)

They are wrong. This is information for the public, not just some jack booted law enforcement agency. So, in my infinite wisdom, I declare that public information being conveniently available to the public is a good thing. Non believers will be summarily executed at midnight.

Google Is Creepy (3, Insightful)

chromozone (847904) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936707)

Google plays along with China in censoring but it lobbys in the US for opening government records? While at the same time its board is advising it's sharholders to not vote for proposals to bar any "proactive" censorship (and Google is censoring a lot)? Google is getting creepy and I already use another search engine to get unbiased results. Google's board objects to anticensorship proposal http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/googles-boar d-objects-anti-censorship-proposal/story.aspx?guid =%7BE4924442-BA3A-4F47-A5B8-DCA66F1A9CB0%7D [marketwatch.com]

Re:Google Is Creepy (1)

appelsiini (1002972) | more than 6 years ago | (#18938315)

Couple of years ago, US majority in polls wanted to ban Al-Jazeera TV. Ssame majority now opposes censorship of search-engines in China. Talk about double-standards.

Business records, yes (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936759)

I'd like to have the name and address of every legitimate business in the United States, for web site legitimacy validation. [sitetruth.com] I've purchased databases which contain an approximation to that information, but that's mostly phone book data, not Government data.

More business records need to be easily available. This varies from state to state now. Corporation records are usually freely available, although a few states (notably Delaware) charge for address information. Every US state has their own format; I've yet to find two states using the same output format on their web site. That's a hassle, but can be overcome.

D/B/A name and business license data is even harder to get. It's public record information, and you can get it from data brokers, but it's fairly expensive and not current.

It's easier for some major countries outside the US. The UK has centralized business registration at Companies House. You can get this kind of information for all the G-7 countries (although not for Russia) and most of the major exporting countries, including China.

trrolkore (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18936881)

become like tHey [goat.cx]

Information broker (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18937061)

Who is to say that Google won't turn their massive amount of data for sale. In essence creating a two tiered search. One for pay and one not for pay. The search market has only a handful of dominant players; fixing prices or services wouldn't be all that difficult.

finally get the people registering cars in my name (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18937319)

Does this mean I can finally bust my car-thieving neighbors with 10+ drunk drivings for registering cars in my name? Cause currently there is no way to search for cars in your name in California. This should make everyone's car insurance rates go down.

easier to mine (2, Insightful)

john_uy (187459) | more than 6 years ago | (#18937537)

the difference though if you can search the records electronically is that it will be easier to mine the information. that will be very difficult with printed records limiting the scope of malicious activities.

When will Google open up ? (1)

Alain Williams (2972) | more than 6 years ago | (#18937777)

Google is very keen to make the world's information open and accessible to all; however it is very coy about saying anything about itself -- how many data centers; how many servers; etc, etc.

When will Google be a bit more open about itself ?

It's part of their mandate (1)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 6 years ago | (#18938633)

The move is being hailed by groups such as OpenTheGovernment.org, but the Electronic Privacy Information Center expressed concerns, given what they call Google's "checkered past" with regard to privacy on the Internet.

Google's mandate is "to organize the world's information". Like it or not, this includes information about you. If there is stuff about you that you don't want Google to know, don't put it on the Internet and don't give it to anyone who could possibly one day leak it to the internet (i.e. the government).

Everything else is fair game. Including that time back in the 80's when you were arrested for snorting coke.

Now if there is real private info, like SSNs that the government needs and you don't want leaking, then the answer is simply pass laws disallowing anyone from sharing SSN info. No one outside the government, banks, and yuour employer should even be allowed to know your SSN in the first place.

OK, this is very important (2, Informative)

hey! (33014) | more than 6 years ago | (#18940105)

While the social security number issue is important, it barely scrapes the surface when it comes to the dangers of doing this.

Open government records exist to ensure government accountability.

For example, court records exist to prove that the operations of the courts are fair, impartial and proper.

However, when incorporated into private databases (in this I include search engine indices) the character of these records changes tremendously. For example, if you are sued by your landlord, future landlords will be able to search the records, using it as an intelligence database on you, not a record of the operation of the government. Likewise, if you had a disgruntled employee who files complaints about alleged violations of state regulations, then potential employees and investors could be deterred from doing business with you.

Placing public records in private datasets alters the nature of the records.

The problem is that in the US, the legal notion of privacy is broken. It was broken by technology.

In the US, we have a libertarian notion of privacy that is based on some simple dichotomies: public/private, disclosed/undisclosed. Information is either of a public nature, in which case it is fair game to ferret out and publish, or it is of a private nature, in which case you are protected from intrusion. It is either undisclosed, which means that if it is of a private nature it is safe, or it is disclosed, in which case anybody who has the data in hand is welcome to publish it to the world. The only exception are those who have a specially recognized duty of confidentiality, such as doctors and lawyers.

The reason that this is a libertarian notion is that it seeks to preserve the freedom of anybody who receives data to do whatever they please with it. That is why when you give your name and address to a vendor, that vendor can turn around and sell that information, as well as information about what you have purchased, to somebody else. While US law forbids using this information in a credit report, it does not clearly forbid using it for investigative purposes such as a background check. Even if you construe a usage of this information as a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, since it is not part of your credit report, you have no way of knowing that it is being used in a background check or by identity thieves or stalkers.

Our notions about privacy tend to be centered around the concepts of non-disclosure, but the issue of privacy is much deeper. Privacy, in my view, is the right of the individual to choose and act autonomously without unreasonable interference by outside parties. Limiting informational privacy to protection of non-disclosed facts falls far short of protecting what we expect privacy to secure, which is nothing less than individual liberty. Nowhere is the threat to individual liberty greater than in the use of government records for purposes other than ensuring the proper operation of government. As an individual, you are not free to avoid appearance in such records. If you are sued, your name, address, and information about your doings goes into a public record. This is true even if you are subpoenaed. What is worse, individual bits of data about you can be assembled from various public record sources to create a picture of your private life, even if no single fact in isolation reveals much.

In 1972, the US Department of Health Education and Welfare published a report called "Records, Computers and the Rights of Citizens". It was a very early look into the impact of computer record keeping on privacy. The report, started under Secretary Elliot Richardson, recognized the privacy dangers inherent in using data for purposes other than. Richardson, whose integrity and impartiality was widely admired on both sides of the isle, left his position in HEW to take over as Attorney General during the mushrooming Watergate scandal, and he was replaced by Caspar Weinberger, known to current generations as an early mentor of Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Cheney. This may have had an impact on the report, for while the report was exceptionally prescient in identifying the dangers of misusing data, its recommendations for preventing and correcting those abuses were remarkably timid. And even those timid recommendations were never implemented in a comprehensive way.

In 1981, The Council of Europe developed a protocol to protect the rights of individuals in record keeping systems. This protocol was highly influenced by the 1972 HEW report, but had much clearer and concise descriptions of the rights that individuals hold. The HEW report denied that individuals have any data privacy rights at all, although it is logically impossible for such rights given the content of the report. There cannot be "abuses" unless the abuses are of some right or another.

The Convention on privacy can be read here:http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/en/Treaties /Html/108.htm [coe.int] .

In particular note:

II.5.b: (Personal data undergoing automatic processing shall be:) stored for specified and legitimate purposes and notused in a way incompatible with those purposes;

Also note article 7, which mandates adequate security measures against improper disclosure and dissemination of personal data. Violations by government and private agencies of this principle are in which makes the news about once a month here in the US.

Finally, read Article 8 carefully. One of the important rights established in Article 8 is the right of the individual to participate in decisions about how data about him is used. Thus, a private data mining company would be free as anybody else to look up the names and addresses of witnesses in a trial and read what is revealed in court records about that person's habits and doings. However he could not transfer that record to his own database without consent, nor could he transfer such a record from his database to a customer without consent.

I have said this before and I'll say it again. US privacy law is broken, when it comes to data privacy especially. We should immediately adopt the COE Convention on Privacy wholesale. This would protect our citizens against the problems we have seen over and over in shoddy handling of sensitive private data. It would protect subjects of government record keeping systems from abuse of records of data they are compelled by the state to provide. It would protect US trade because by aligning our data protection practices with Europe, we ensure that American companies will be able to receive appropriate cross border data transfers.

This is not an issue in which we can afford to have an attitude of "not invented here". Even so, the Council on Europe protocols simply take the 1972 HEW report to its logical conclusion.
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