I was reading an article in PC Magazine today about Government requesting search engine data from Yahoo!, MSN, and Google as part of an effort to reinstate the Child Online Protection Act. The writer, like so many government-fearing Americans, suggests that divulging search engine information poses privacy law issues and is one step closer towards a Big Brother government structure. His direct quote is “I worry that even well-intentioned U.S. actions that place minor restrictions on the Internet are sending the wrong message.” He goes on to insinuate that the advancement in content filtering software is a sufficient substitute for actively monitoring would-be threats on the Internet.
In a day where the Internet has become a haven for child predators and other criminals, it really fries my ass that people aren’t willing to sacrifice some anonymity in order to make it a safer place. Collecting search engine data in order to compile profiles on potential criminals, and other online predators is not only necessary, but long overdue if you ask me. It’s absurd to think that allowing it would be a precursor to having microchips embedded in our skin. It seems that people have become more afraid of secret technology and conspiracy theories than they are of current real threats. What about the fear of child rapists and murderers? What about the fear of people building homemade bombs in their basements? What about the fear of troubled teens plotting to shoot up their schools?
When something terrible does happen, the “concerned” public shakes their head and says “Can’t something be done?” But what they really mean is, “Can’t something be done that doesn’t require me to do anything or sacrifice anything?” For the good of the country, and a safer Internet, I’d be willing to share my grocery list with the Government. I’d certainly give up the ability to remain 100% anonymous.
What really bothers me is the same people who whine about protecting their privacy are the same people who whore out all their personal information to unknown online companies to sign up for “special” offers, or to enter contests, or to see if that “Get a free iPod” thing really works. Hell, if you fill out almost as much information as you would put on a credit application at dentyne.com, you can get a free pack of gum! Wouldn’t you rather have minty-fresh breath than contribute to stopping online child predators?
UPDATE: PC Magazine published my response to their article in their “Feedback” section. You can read it in the April 25, 2006 issue of PC Magazine on page 17 of the PDF (p. 14 of the magazine).