"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance

 and a people who mean to be their own governors

 must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Where Do They Find Them?

Did you ever wonder where reporters find "little guys" to quote in their articles? Take the New York Times article, After Subpoenas, Internet Searches Give Some Pause, as an example. How do reporters go about finding people frightened, changing their behavior, at the news the Justice Department has asked Google and others to turnover millions of internet search queries? Do they go through their rolodexes or do they just ask around?

Even though it has been widely reported that the search queries requested by the government cannot be traced to their source, and therefore no personal information about users would be given up, the Times managed to find these folks to quote:

Kathryn Hanson, 45, a former telecommunications engineer who lives in Oakland, Calif., immediately told her boyfriend she’d Googled 'rent boy,' just in case I got whisked off to some Navy prison in the dead of night," she said.

Jim Kowats, 34, a television producer who lives in Washington, has been growing increasingly concerned about the government's data collection efforts. "Where does it stop?" he said. "What about file sharing? Scalping tickets? Or traveling to Cuba? What if you look up abortion? Who says you can't look up those things? What are the limits? It's the little chipping away. It's a slippery slope."

Mike Winkleman, 27, a law student who lives in Miami said he would like to think that the erosion of his privacy was for "a good cause, like national security or preventing child porn," he said. "But I can't help but feel that for each inch I give, a mile will be taken."

Sheryl Decker, 47, an information technology manager in Seattle, said she was now thinking twice about what she said in her personal e-mail correspondence. "I have been known to send very unflattering things about our government and our president," Ms. Decker said. "I still do, but I am careful about using certain phrases that I once wouldn't have given a second thought."

Genny Ballard, 36, a professor of Spanish at Centre College in Danville, Ky., said she had grown more conscious about what she typed into the Google search box.

Ming-Wai Farrell, 25, who works for a legal industry trade association in Washington, said: “It’s scary to think that it may just be a matter of time before Googling will invite an F.B.I. agent to tap your phone or interrogate you.
Thankfully, the reporters were able to find two people with a logical reaction to the government’s request for the information as part of its effort to uphold an online pornography law.
Josh Cohen 34, a financial adviser in Chicago said he was willing to accept that tradeoff in the pursuit of national security. "In order for the government to catch people that prey on children, or fight the war on terror, they are going to need the help of the search engines."

Mr. Cohen said he doubted there would be much compromising of his individual privacy because the amount of data collected by the government was so voluminous. "My rationale tells me that with close to 300 million people in the U.S., and about 45 to 50 percent of households having Internet access, that I don't need to be too concerned with my search engine behavior," he said.

Susan P. Crawford, a professor at the Cardozo School of Law in New York, agreed that the sheer volume of information obtained by the government was likely to dilute privacy threats.

"More experienced Internet users would understand that in the mountain of search-related data available in response to a subpoena, it is very unlikely that anything referring to them personally would be revealed," Professor Crawford said.
And another question. Isn’t it a little strange that people so afraid of the government finding out about personal matters are willing to share these details, including their names for publication in the New York Times?



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