Friday, September 14, 2007

Search Privacy: You Are What You Search For - Er What You Eat

The following comes from AltSearchEngines and was used by permission

Search Engines & The Illusion of Privacy

For those who don’t recognize this image, this is the ubiquitous “Cone of Silence” from the TV series “Get Smart.” Whatever was said in the Cone stayed in the Cone! The privacy of your conversation was absolutely guaranteed.

Let’s see, I’ll be 60 years old…

The story from the Associated Press (AP) that greeted me this morning looked like it was just an update on one of the Homeland Security Department’s policies. It said, in part, that instead of keeping risk assessments on you and me for 40 years, they will only keep them for 15 years. What a break! Oh, and by-the-by, you’re not allowed to see your risk assessment, or even why they have one on you.

You are what you eat!

But what really got my attention was that they will try to deduce whether or not we are terrorists by the names of our traveling companions, the number of hotel beds requested, and -wait for it- airline meal choices! That made me wonder, does Homeland Security know what groceries I buy (with my credit card, to make it a little easier for them)? Do they know what cereal I had for breakfast? What do terrorists eat when they travel? I sure don’t want to order that…

Alternative Search Engines

What does any of this have to do with the alternative search engines? That’s what I was wondering. On Mondays at AltSearchEngines we usually feature a different Vertical search category. But after reading this news, search engines that I once thought of as helpful and innocuous, now seemed to be under a black cloud of suspicion.

People Search

Of course People search is often singled out as the bad guy. What do they know about me? Why is Facebook releasing my profile? If I misspell “kiddie horns” when I search for my nephew’s birthday party favors, am I going to be tagged as a pervert? Personal data and issues of privacy will always be at the top of everyone’s concern. The alternative People search engines and the social networking sites will always have that special burden of reassuring their users that it’s safe to use their site. (Or at the very least that the benefits outweigh the risks.)

Likewise the Job search engines. Before today I would have only wondered which one is most likely to find a good position. But in a parallel paranoid universe, what if “something” happened and my boss found that I have been searching for a new job while I was on the clock! After all, didn’t have a theft of confidential information?

Health Search? Could a prospective employer surreptitiously buy a list that revealed that I have a preexisting condition and then find another reason not to hire me?

Travel search? Yep, he’s a terrorist. Probably off to training camp.

Search engines that track blogs, discussions, buzz, and other readily available Internet chatter; if I make a joke about renting out my basement to “that guy on the video,” will they “accidentally” fire bomb my house?

Video search? Buy Season Three of “24″ ? Not any more; no way.

Image search. More bad news. Another article, again, in this morning’s paper, said that if they catch a child pornography suspect with a picture of a child on a red blanket, they perform a search for all photos with red blankets. My beach towel is red! I could be looking at 10-15 years of hard time - and lose my beach towel.


We live in a world where every email, every outdoor camera, every Internet search on every search engine, every hotel we book or meal that we order might be captured by someone and used against us. The “Age of Innocence” has run head-on into the “Illusion of Privacy,” and the result is the “Plague of Paranoia” that is sweeping our world like an electronic epidemic.

Now, what would a terrorist order for lunch?

Here’s a bonus, check out this really creative UI for a local restaurant search!

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posted by RealitySEO at 8:57 PM 0 comments

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Real ID - Oppose Defacto National ID - Driver License

May 1, 2007

Melissa Ngo
Director, EPIC Identification and Surveillance Project
(202) 483-1140 ext. 123
ngo AT


WASHINGTON, DC - Today, 43 organizations representing transpartisan, nonpartisan, privacy, consumer, civil liberty, civil rights, and immigrant organizations have joined to launch a national campaign to solicit public comments to stop the nation's first national ID system: REAL ID.

The groups joining in the anti-REAL ID campaign are concerned about the increased threat of counterfeiting and identity theft, lack of security to protect against unauthorized access to the document's machine readable content, increased cost to taxpayers, diverting of state funds intended for homeland security, increased costs for obtaining a license or state issued ID card, and because the REAL ID would create a false belief that it is secure and unforgeable.

This effort builds on the momentum that is signaling broad opposition to the REAL ID in the states. Montana has become the fifth state, following Maine, Idaho, Arkansas, and Washington, to prohibit cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security in implementing the REAL ID national identification system.

Under the Act, states and federal government would share access to a vast national database that could include images of birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce papers, court ordered separations, medical records, and detailed information on the name, date of birth, race, religion, ethnicity, gender, address, telephone, e-mail address, Social Security Number for more than 240 million with no requirements or controls on how this database might be used. Many may not have the documents required to obtain a REAL ID, or they may face added requirements base on arbitrary and capricious decisions made by DMV employees.

EPIC joins this group of 43 organizations in a fight against the national identification system created by the Department of Homeland Security. "Make no mistake, this is a national identification system that will affect your everyday life," said Melissa Ngo, Director of EPIC's Identification and Surveillance Project. "Critics of the REAL ID scheme are called anti-security, but it is not anti-security to reject a national identification system that will harm our national security and make it easier for criminals to pretend to be law-abiding Americans."

The draft regulations to implement the REAL ID Act are open for comment until 5 p.m. EST on May 8, 2007. To take action and submit comments against the fundamentally flawed national identification scheme, under Docket No. 2006-0030-0001.

Online: Through the public submission portal at:

Or use one of the more user-friendly sites found at the following web addresses:


Privacy Activism

To Fax Comments to the Department of Homeland Security:

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Privacy Coalition

Or send a letter to the agency. Fax: 1-866-466-5370.

Postal mail:
Department of Homeland Security
Attn: NAC 1-12037
Washington, DC 20528

All comments must be received by until 5:00 PM EST on May 8, 2007.

Visit the Stop REAL ID Campaign site

Visit EPIC's National ID Cards and REAL ID Act page

List of all of the Groups Supporting this Campaign:

American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations
American Library Association
American Policy Center
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
Association of American Physicians & Surgeons
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Center for Digital Democracy
Center for Financial Privacy and Human Rights
Citizen Outreach Project.
Citizens Against Government Waste
Common Cause
Computing Professionals for Social Responsibility
Consumer Action
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Privacy Information Center
Fairfax County Privacy Council
Give Me Back My Rights Coalition
Government Accountability Project
Gun Owners of America
Immigrant Workers Union
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
Liberty Coalition
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council of La Raza
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
National Immigration Law Center
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays
Patient Privacy Rights Foundation
People for the American Way
Privacy Activism
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
Privacy Times
Republican Liberty Caucus
Rutherford Institute, The
The Arc of the United States United Cerebral Palsy
The Multiracial Activist
US Bill of Rights Foundation
Virginia Citizens Defense League
Virginia Gun Owners Coalition
World Privacy Forum

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posted by RealitySEO at 7:28 PM 3 comments