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News & Politics

It's three in the morning and you can't remember how many Senators it takes to filibuster (one), how to make babaganoush or how to spell it, and whether it's liquor before beer or beer before liquor. Who you going to call? For many of us, Google is our science teacher, auntie, advisor, and confidant all rolled into one. And the best thing, is no one has to know you've been asking. No one, that is, but the United States government, which has subpeoned millions of Internet search records, including Google's. No, there's no immediate crisis, where if Google doesn't hand over the data, something is going to blow up. It's officially about concerns about "Internet pornography" and unofficially just another way for the Bush administration to see how far they can overreach.

Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp.'s MSN search service, and Time Warner's AOL service have all agreed to hand over the data. Only Google has refused, saying to do so would violate users' privacy. Thanks, Google. I knew there was a reason that a "yahoo" is another name for a dupe. MSN gives its wimpy rationale for why it handed over your records here.

Although officially investigators are seeking general data about Internet use, not individual users' records, the information can easily be linked back to individuals. But besides being one of the last places where we can indulge our voyeurism and curiousity without anyone knowing, Google searches seem a poor indicator of who is a necessarily a pornographer or, for that matter, a terrorist. When I type in "My three year old is acting like a little TERRORISt and I BLEW UP at him, " searching for a little parental sympathy, is the government going to come looking for me?

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