Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The End Of Privacy

The biggest story of the day that doesn't concern Iraq, Israel or the countries around them is AOL's blunder of releasing to the public the personal searches of 650,000 of its users.

The searches quoted in the article linked to above read like perverse, private poetry. Even the tamer lists of search terms seem to reveal so much about the "anonymous" users. Anyone so confused about the privacy issues at stake in the whole Government vs. Google case should think about what their own seraches reveal. I've often heard people say, "If I'm not doing anything illegal, then why should I care if the government taps-my-phone/looks-at-my-internet-searches." But do you really want to reveal things like illnesses, legal battles and other personal traumas to total strangers? Strangers that may be able to identify who you are and where you live?

It didn't take The New York Times much sleuthing to find Thelma Arnold.

AOL took its search database down, but not before some enterprising computer geeks mirrored the site. If you've used AOL's search... well, lets just hope you didn't look up your social security number. Or your own name. Or both.

Out of curiousity, I wondered what kind of people were looking for "Monmouth County, NJ," the county where I grew up. Were there perverts planning to move to my town?

I found that someone searched for "Monmouth Mall, Eatontown, NJ." My mall. So I looked up his or her ID number to see what else they looked up.

I was shocked.

yikes. it got worse.

rape 2006-05-20 23:33:59
hogtied 2006-05-20 23:31:51
fuckaroo 2006-05-20 23:11:06
fuckaroo 2006-05-20 23:11:06
fuckaroo 2006-05-20 23:11:06 2006-05-20 20:14:40 2006-05-20 20:14:33 2006-05-20 20:07:28 2006-05-20 20:05:47 2006-05-20 11:26:21 2006-05-20 11:26:21 2006-05-20 11:26:06
And right beneath those search entries:
A store in the monmouth mall!!!! Whoever this bastard is, they look up sick porn and then buy candles!!! But only after watching Sesame Street and checking their bank balance online!!!!

All this time, I thought the people I saw wandering Monmouth Mall were just normal, god-fearing Americans.

Innocent childhood, shattered!

I wonder what I've revealed about myself through my internet searches. Later tonight, stay tuned for a full accounting of the words I've typed into google. Uncensored.

[actually, when I wrote the above paragraph, I figured I had nothing to hide... however, looking through my searches, as funny as some of them are... i've decided they give a bit too much away. sorry to disappoint.]

[However, I will say that, reading my searches, you would find the first girl I ever had a crush on, multiple restaurants, lots of celebrities and, most humorously: "william hung like a virgin madonna". No, I don't remember searching for that.]

But back to the point. We don't have to use the internet. If we wanted to, we could go to a library, do our searches the old fashioned way. And we don't need to join MySpace or Facebook and put up detailed profiles of ourselves where everyone can see them. But regardless, many of us do these things. They enrich our lives... but also put us at risk. The risks of sites like MySpace have been made clear, time and time again by the media. But using something as innocuous as a search engine doesn't often enter our minds as a potential breach of our privacy. Clearly, it should. As long as companies continue to compile and store our online activities (amazon, ebay, and other sites store user data as well), our privacy is at risk. And with our government becoming increasingly intolerant of barriers to accessing citizen's private data, we get ever closer to the "Big Brother" that Orwell so terrifyingly detailed in his work of fiction. AOL's database is clearly not the last breach of privacy that will exist in the online world. And the fact that the "Big Brother" in this case is not only the government but every shmuck with a computer makes the breach even more terrifying. It's bad enough to think the government is watching you... far scarier to know that it could be anybody.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Now... Lets Go Fishing

Still Hasn't Caught Bin Laden

Don't bother Bush when he's on vacation. Even with a report entitled "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike In US."

For those of you who don't feel like watching the 2 second commercial necessary to view the link above, I'll sum it up for you in this short play:

August 6, 2001:

CIA GUY: We've got this report here, entitled "Bin Laden Determined To Strike In US." We'd like to go over it with you in detail...

BUSH: Jesus, really? Don't you guys understand what "vacation" means?

CIA GUY: Well...

BUSH: Ok, ok. On with it. I don't got all day.

CIA GUY: Ok. Well, to truly understand the threat, we must go back to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in...

BUSH: (inner monologue) I wonder if there'll be good bass today. I could really go for a nice bass. I nice, big, juicy bass.

(A Few Minutes Later)

CIA GUY: Any questions?

BUSH: All right. You've covered your ass now. Now can I go fishing, finally????
What would have happened on 9/11 if we had a President who did his job???
One More Letter on the Israel-Hezbollah War

My follow up letter to a reader's rebuttal of my previous letter (is that the best way to say that?) was printed on Altercation on Friday. Check it out.

And, the most telling news story lede:

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Lebanon's prime minister said Monday that one person had been killed in an Israeli air raid on the southern village of Houla, lowering the death toll from 40.
From 40 deaths to one? Wow. Somebody must have miscounted... or.. er.. perhaps.. just maybe.. i'm not accusing anybody... but.. well.. maybe someone just invented the higher death toll to swing more people against Israel. But no... no.... nobody would ever do that. Must have been an honest mistake. This is like a one time thing, right?

Oh. Nevermind. Well, I'm sure there must be some explanation for these huge death tolls turning out to be... well... inaccurate.

And somebody please tell the Democratic Party that donating $20 to them and giving them my address doesn't mean I want to receive junk-mail crap from Human Rights Watch... which blatantly seized upon these inaccurate death tolls to launch a sharp PR attack on Israel, and has not yet apologized.

Which is not to say civilian deaths aren't tragic. Or that innocent people aren't dying in this conflict. But to base your decision of right and wrong solely on which side has more casualties is a stupid way to make your decision. Especially when one side has a penchant for inflating those casualty figures.

Israel is not infallable. But they are not "terrorists." And they have not committed "war crimes." To say that they are and did is to undermine the meanings of both terms. Until Israelis march into discoteques with bombs strapped to their chests, they aren't terrorists. And until they deliberately target civilians, they haven't committed war crimes. Whether or not you believe their response is "disproportionate," lets at least call things by their right names.

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