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Google Government United States Your Rights Online

Latest Target In War On Drugs: Google Autocomplete 154

Posted by timothy
from the wrong-folks-to-micromanage dept.
netbuzz writes "The National Association of Attorneys General met in Boston this week and one panel focused on the 'safe harbor' provision of 1996 Communications Decency Act. Within that broader discussion, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood cited the autocomplete feature in Google search as evidence the company has more control over content than it contends. 'We know they manipulate the autocomplete feature,' Hood said, with his point being that there should be more such manipulation, not less. His primary example: a search on 'prescription drugs online' presents an autocomplete suggestion of 'prescription drugs online without a prescription.'"
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Latest Target In War On Drugs: Google Autocomplete

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  • google this (Score:5, Funny)

    by ciderbrew (1860166) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @12:18PM (#44061559)
    Attorneys are ... :)
    • I guess Attorneys have so much work that First Amendment Issues are a nuisance?

      And while we're on the subject of Attorney's. Given; if client A is in conference with attorney B, and person C comes into the discussion to talk with client A about how to commit an act of fraud. Question; Does the conversation between client A and person C in front of attorney B fall under the "Attorney–client privilege?"
      • by jeffmeden (135043)

        I guess Attorneys have so much work that First Amendment Issues are a nuisance?

        And while we're on the subject of Attorney's. Given; if client A is in conference with attorney B, and person C comes into the discussion to talk with client A about how to commit an act of fraud. Question; Does the conversation between client A and person C in front of attorney B fall under the "Attorney–client privilege?"

        You forgot to add "asking for a friend" to your question...

        • This Economic Hydra Effect is nasty. I'm just trying to figure out how Goldman-Sucks, et.al. got away with things like "robo signing," and "conflict of interest issues." I wonder, "how could a group of people do this, and get away with it?" A possible solution was, "put your attorney in the mix, and all communications are privileged."
          • Re:google this (Score:4, Informative)

            by jeffmeden (135043) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @02:50PM (#44063401) Homepage Journal

            In general the answer is no. Courtesy of a general counsel briefing on ACP:

            Communications in the Presence of a Third Party

            The privilege extends only to communications that the client intends to be confidential. Communications made in non-private settings, or in the presence of third persons unnecessary to accomplish the purpose for which the attorney was consulted, are not confidential and are not protected by the privilege.

          • by PopeRatzo (965947)

            I'm just trying to figure out how Goldman-Sucks, et.al. got away with things like "robo signing," and "conflict of interest issues."

            That's easy. The Justice Department is blind to crimes by the big Wall Street outfits.

            And when they do get caught, they are fined a pittance compared to their windfall from the crime.

            If you neglect to put a dollar in the parking meter, you will be fined more than FIFTY times the amount of your crime. If a bank steals $10billion, the fine is maybe 1/500th of that.

          • by Urza9814 (883915)

            This Economic Hydra Effect is nasty. I'm just trying to figure out how Goldman-Sucks, et.al. got away with things like "robo signing," and "conflict of interest issues." I wonder, "how could a group of people do this, and get away with it?" A possible solution was, "put your attorney in the mix, and all communications are privileged."

            The DoJ freely admits that they have plenty of evidence to prosecute them...they just don't want to.

            From http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/22/too-big-to-jail-obama-justice_n_3322824.html [huffingtonpost.com]:

            DOJ officials have previously defended the lack of criminal charges against banks suspected of wrongdoing in large part by pointing to the so-called “collateral consequences” associated with filing a criminal indictment against a leading financial institution.

    • by fonetik (181656)
      "Politicians are..." yields more accurate results.
    • Re:google this (Score:4, Insightful)

      by HappyPsycho (1724746) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @01:30PM (#44062315)

      Theres my daily dose of laughter and loss of faith in humanity,

      One of my suggestions was "attorneys are doctors"!

      The funny one was "attorneys aren't us" (a play on alcho annonomous)

    • Re:google this (Score:5, Insightful)

      by icebike (68054) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @01:45PM (#44062467)

      Attorneys are ... :)

      Welcome to the world of crowd sourced search trends, and self fulfilling prophesies.

      The truth is autocomplete isn't manipulated, its crowd sourced in real time. No conspiracy, no secret room full of minions trained to push an agenda. Just statistical weighting of what hundreds of thousands of people are searching for. If you don't like the results blame the users, because, in fact, that is exactly the source.

      Why is this so hard for politicians (and anyone else with an ax to grind) to understand. You read about people suing google all over the world for the same thing, (and mostly losing except in France).
      .

      • Google tries to blacklist A, B, and C, so clearly they should have to do the same for D, E, F, G, and H! It makes perfect sense!

      • The truth is autocomplete isn't manipulated, its crowd sourced in real time. No conspiracy, no secret room full of minions trained to push an agenda. Just statistical weighting of what hundreds of thousands of people are searching for. If you don't like the results blame the users, because, in fact, that is exactly the source.

        I question that. For quite a while now, "Pirate Bay" will not autocomplete from either the Google main page or the Firefox search bar unless it is pulling it up from a previous search you did. It used to be the first result by "pir". Not sure how crowd sourcing would account for that.

        • Re:google this (Score:4, Informative)

          by icebike (68054) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @05:29PM (#44065031)

          I've never googled Pirate Bay on this account. Until now.
          Yet as soon as I entered the word Pirate the second auto-complete was for thepiratebay.se (which led to a different site altogether).

          Some things are forcibly excluded from search results by various laws in various places, so it might not work for me but would work for someone else.

          Still, that is the "legally mandated exclusive case", but that wouldn't explain or refute the "crowd sourced inclusive case".

      • by khallow (566160)

        Why is this so hard for politicians (and anyone else with an ax to grind) to understand.

        I can't locate it now, but there is a saying about how incredibly difficult it is to enlighten people who make a career of being ignorant.

    • you search "politics" for instance and a million ads for antidepressants come up.

      perfect matches.

  • by cellocgw (617879) <cellocgwNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday June 20, 2013 @12:21PM (#44061607) Journal

    And so is anyone who accepts the proffered autocomplete options without thinking about what he wants to search for.

    On the other hand, here's an opportunity for GoogleClippy. "It looks like you're searching for illegal drugs online. How can I help you with that?"

    • Re:He's a moron (Score:5, Informative)

      by interkin3tic (1469267) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @12:34PM (#44061749)
      At least it sounds like he's focusing on drug abuse that traditionally gets ignored.

      "Pot and crack? Yes, lock all of them up, those criminal scum.

      Oxycodone and hydrocodone? Hey man, sitting on your fat ass in a chair and blabbing about how liberals are destroying society all day is tough. Rush NEEDS those pain pills. That shouldn't be jail time!"
      • Re:He's a moron (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Hatta (162192) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @12:49PM (#44061933) Journal

        Prohibition is bad policy. There's no "at least he's" when he's implementing bad policy. The right thing to do is advocate against bad policy. If he can't do that as AG, then he should quit. Keeping his job and implementing bad policy should earn him nothing but contempt.

        • Re:He's a moron (Score:5, Interesting)

          by interkin3tic (1469267) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @02:27PM (#44063093)
          Perhaps the best way to get society to demand the war on drugs end is to prosecute the middle and upper class like we do the lower class. Lock up people who abuse prescription drugs, and lawyers who do coke, and throw away the key. The public is slowly admitting that maybe pot isn't that bad, but they don't feel strongly enough about it because no one they know is fucked over for victimless crimes.
          • by Anonymous Coward
            Here's a small start [khou.com]. District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg drunk off her ass, rude as hell. She was tough on everyone who came before her with a DWI and still has her job. At least she got to see what it's like.
          • Re:He's a moron (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Hatta (162192) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @04:10PM (#44064295) Journal

            Perhaps the best way to get society to demand the war on drugs end is to prosecute the middle and upper class like we do the lower class

            If you could do that, it would solve most of our problems. The whole point of government is to protect the weak from the strong, but in practice it protects the strong from the weak.

      • "Traditionally gets ignored", my butt. There's been a huge push to stop abuse of prescription narcotics, especially the oxy; that stuff is all over the street. It hasn't been the drug of choice for the upper crust for many, many years.
    • by ciantic (626550)

      I must be one of these morons. It often happens to me that Google Chrome address-bar (omnibar) throws in the auto-completion just when I'm about to press the enter. Then after looking at results for a while I find out the stuff I typed is appended with crap.

      Now that I bothered to write about my stupidity, I'm considering turning the auto-completion off from address-bar.

      • by jeffmeden (135043)

        I must be one of these morons. It often happens to me that Google Chrome address-bar (omnibar) throws in the auto-completion just when I'm about to press the enter. Then after looking at results for a while I find out the stuff I typed is appended with crap.

        Now that I bothered to write about my stupidity, I'm considering turning the auto-completion off from address-bar.

        The chrome address bar autocomplete only fills in more than you type in two cases; if you are typing part of a word that will get turned into a "We think you mean to search for X" anyway, or a search you have already executed that started with the same text. An off-the-cuff search won't use the live suggested search results to autocomplete your search.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 20, 2013 @12:22PM (#44061619)

    The new front in the war on drugs: minor inconvenience. Take that, drugs!

    • by fafalone (633739)
      New front? Where have you been? That's all the drug war is unless you or a loved one is actually the one arrested. If a dealer is busted, it's a minor inconvenience to find one of the 10 dealers who took his spot. If a trafficker loses a major shipment, it's a minor inconvenience since it's a cost of doing business. If a mule goes down, it's a minor inconvenience for everyone else. Hell, Mexico seized a lab with 15 tons of pure meth worth $4 BILLION dollars. That was a minor inconvenience- they didn't even
  • Danger! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sponge Bath (413667) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @12:23PM (#44061625)
    A government official is looking for a moral crusade to fill his time and justify his paycheck. Mississippi Jim, on patrol!
  • Why try to stop people from searching for something they are searching for anyway? The algorithm probably just checks to see what common queries are completed using the text so far. How much time and money is going to be spent on something that isn't going to do anything but annoy Google users and developers? IANAL, but I thought ordering drugs online is legal in the US as long as it is not a controlled substance?
    • Re:wasteful (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @12:28PM (#44061687) Homepage

      Why try to stop people from searching for something they are searching for anyway?

      Because they believe that Google should be at the front line of essentially censoring the internet to only return things they feel are 'acceptable'.

      The government can't censor you (yet), but if they can strong-arm a company into doing it for them, it must be OK, right?

      • > Because they believe that Google should be at the front line of essentially censoring the internet to only return things they feel are 'acceptable'.

        Which, given that Google has voluntarily taken on this general role, is simply a debate over what the standards for "acceptability" are.

        • The problem is that nobody understands what volunteer means. They chose to do some things without being forced to, so now assholes like Jim Hood think they should be forced to do even more. That's seven kinds of stupid.
        • Google does it for monetary reasons.

          The government does it for control reasons.

          That's not just a difference of the level of acceptability.

      • Well, that strong-arming thing usually goes both ways between corporations and the government.
    • by chrismcb (983081)
      Yeah, I don't understand how this is going to prevent anything. Or do people ONLY accept autocomplete results? When 'prescription drugs online' doesn't give you the option you want, then keep typing 'without a prescription' then hit return. OBVIOUSLY enough people already did that for it to be a top autocomplete suggestion.
  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @12:24PM (#44061639)

    . . . it auto-completes with "The National Association of Attorneys General" . . .

  • by dAzED1 (33635) <brianlamere AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday June 20, 2013 @12:24PM (#44061641) Homepage Journal
    If a lot of people that started a search with "prescription drugs online" were searching for "prescription drugs online unicorns riding gorillas wearing purple napkin trampoline" then that is what autocomplete would suggest. Bloody hell, it's not like someone at Google is manually creating "suggestions" for people...
    • by Anonymous Coward
    • by Anonymous Coward

      AGs: "Google, it's come to our attention that you must, in fact, be manipulating the autocomplete feature in your search results."
      Google: *exasperated sigh* "Yes. We know. We know this because it's YOUR paranoid law enforcement and antiquated laws that FORCED us to do so! Of COURSE we have to do it! We had to write all this shit because you don't understand BitTorrent, we have to-"
      AGs: "Yes, and we'd like you to do more of it. For the kids, you understand."
      Google: "I WILL MURDER EACH OF YOU AND EVERY P

    • by lightknight (213164) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @01:28PM (#44062289) Homepage

      But "think of the children" ! Oh, and obviously anyone using a search query like that is probably up to no good (probably looking for illicit drugs)...maybe Google should start profiling the people who search with these kinds of queries, and tip off law enforcement, so we can have a safer society and stuff. You know, just send a copy of that person's search history for the last month and GPS location to a nearby police station, and the police will have a look around the premises for anything incriminating. To help bootstrap the process, right? Because that's the society we live...one that's constantly looking for someone to thump, by any means.

      Oh, to live on a different plane of existence where stupidity like this does not exist.

    • by jeffmeden (135043)

      If a lot of people that started a search with "prescription drugs online" were searching for "prescription drugs online unicorns riding gorillas wearing purple napkin trampoline" then that is what autocomplete would suggest. Bloody hell, it's not like someone at Google is manually creating "suggestions" for people...

      Not to mention, there are two features offered by Google: autocomplete (changing the search you are typing without you taking any additional action) is totally different than live suggested search (a list of searches that start the same way that you must choose in order to execute). Autocomplete uses only past searches or dictionary information, not a magic cloud algorithm that can be bent to the will of our overlords.

      This is NOT about autocomplete, as autocomplete will NOT change your search for "prescrip

  • Will this Slashdot discussion focus on Google's responsibility for its autocomplete algorithm, or the ethics of buying drugs/medicine online and the questionable reasons some things require prescriptions at all (basic antibiotics, contact lenses, etc.)

    Either way, I hope we see some good car analogies!
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      and the questionable reasons some things require prescriptions at all (basic antibiotics

      Are you mad? We over use antibiotics now, and people don't always take the full dose, which just leads to more resistant strains.

      If you could walk into a store and buy an antibiotic, the usefulness of them would probably be wiped out in a few years because people would use them wrong.

      Thankfully, you need to be a doctor to write prescriptions for drugs. Though, I'm sure if big pharma had their way, 'consumers' would be

      • Oh God, the stupid burns!

        The reason doctors prescribe antibiotics even if the person has a viral illness is because of secondary or opportunistic infections. You only have so many white blood cells at a given moment, and when they are diverted dealing with a viral invader, other, normally not problematic bacteria can advance causing damage.

        Think of it being like oral thrush, and AIDS patients -> normally the stuff that causes thrush (a fungus) is held in check by your immune system...it's not a challenge

        • by Chirs (87576)

          he reason doctors prescribe antibiotics even if the person has a viral illness is because of secondary or opportunistic infections.

          It's *also* because people want the doctor to do something to make them feel better. I've heard multiple doctors admit that they do stuff with no sound medical basis because it makes the patients feel like they're doing something useful.

        • by Chuckstar (799005)

          LOL... the stupid is burning you because it's inside your head.

          Doctors prescribe antibiotics for viral infections overwhelmingly because patients ask for it and it's easiest to just give people what they want. It's no secret among doctors and many will even admit it, as long as they aren't on the record.

          Superbugs have nothing to do with cleanliness. You can certainly reduce their ability to spread by being more cleanly, but they evolved because of antibiotic use. You get right the reason that superbugs d

      • by mypalmike (454265)

        There is growing evidence that the dogma of taking all your antibiotics is mistaken. Or at least oversimplified. The theory is essentially that antibiotics kill off healthy flora while leaving antibiotic-resistant microbes to thrive and conquer.

        http://blogs.plos.org/publichealth/2012/11/29/are-we-causing-antibiotic-resistance-by-trying-to-prevent-it/ [plos.org]

  • by Valen1260 (215056) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @12:27PM (#44061677)
  • by Spy Handler (822350) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @12:31PM (#44061711) Homepage Journal

    type "Is Jim Hood" and the second autocomplete result is:

    still in jail

  • by denis-The-menace (471988) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @12:31PM (#44061717)

    Pirate Pharmacist: Get all your illicit information on drugs that you could also get from a library or med school.

    I'm sorry but your latest tactic is Blatant censorship

  • So the guy who hasn't got the faintest idea how autocompletions are generated is now the self-appointed policeman trying to save us all from it's evil clutches. The US legal system that allows prosecutors to decide you're guilty of something that's not even illegal and then side-step, tap-dance and threaten their convoluted way through the court system to make sure you get punished for it while leaving a trail of collateral damage longer and wider than Godzilla's last walk to the park to exercise his Labrad

  • by king neckbeard (1801738) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @12:37PM (#44061775)
    When you do something small and nice for a group of assholes, be it the government or the RIAA or whomever, then you set the expectation for that as the bare minimum across the board. There's no gratitude, they'll only say that you aren't doing enough. The second they started censoring autocomplete, it was an inevitability that crap like this would happen.
  • Drugs will... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @12:37PM (#44061777)
    Drugs will fuck up your life kid, so if we ever catch you using, buying and selling them we'll kidnap you and throw you in a cage and fuck up you and your family's lives.

    Typical politics.
    • Unless you operate a Compounding Pharmacy?
    • Either Google Autocomplete or the War on Drugs has to go.

      I don't see any Constitutional issue with or State referenda against Google Autocomplete.

      • by paiute (550198)

        Either Google Autocomplete or the War on Drugs has to go.

        Only one company profits from the former, but numerous companies and politicians profit from the latter.

  • Let's end it along with the prescription system. Much like prohibition, the war on drugs only empowers cartels and drug companies. Not that there's really a difference between the two groups.

  • One would think that when discussing the acts of constitutional illegality, that the speakers would try to at least not grin when purgering themselves.
  • by nimbius (983462) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @12:38PM (#44061805) Homepage
    other nefarious and dastardly plots these brave attorneys have uncovered:
    1. an image search for 'boobies' using google image search can and will display, actual breasts.
    2. Google translate can and will translate nearly a dozen highly offensive english words into any of more than 20 different languages.
    3. a youtube search for 'collateral murder' will produce a video of american soldiers murdering journalists in iraq.
    4. Google searches for the phrases "edward snowden" or "Julian Assange" provides shockingly inappropriate, unbiased information pertaining to united states foreign and domestic policy.
    5. despite dire and repeated warnings by their trustworthy IT staff, google will in fact let you google the word 'google' without any safeguard for the catastrophic consequences that ensue.
    6. despite providing readily available search results for filthy pill junkies, google search raises the ire of attorneys around the globe as it fails to provide a reliable and affordable source of high quality pure columbian cocaine for todays savvy litigators and high powered firms.
  • by jbohumil (517473) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @12:50PM (#44061945)
    I was surprised. Yesterday I wanted to play John Lennon's song "Woman is the nigger of the world" for a friend who had never heard it. Google autocomplete shut off at the "n" and wouldn't show the song's title. Google has made their own bed here by manipulating their autocomplete for a variety of reasons already. They certainly can't complain that they can't do it, or that it is too hard. They are doing it, and for fairly trivial situations such as avoiding presenting a disturbing word to a search engine user. This opens up the door for all kinds of requests for censorship, whether the politically correct ones like preventing the dread "n word" from appearing without someone actually typing it, or this idea that people can be prevented from visiting questionably legal sites by manipulation of autocomplete.

    As soon as they deciding to do all kinds of manipulation they left themselves open to this kind of thing, and it seems like they pretty much have to go along with it, don't they? I mean, do they really want to make the case that showing someone an offensive word is worse than letting people see dangerous and questionably legal activities?

    How much protection do Google users need from the horrors of the raw unfiltered internet? Gradually this will reduce the effectiveness of their search engine.

  • by PPH (736903) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @12:52PM (#44061967)

    I have always suspected that Google autocomplete was on drugs.

  • Autostop reading (Score:5, Insightful)

    by paiute (550198) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @12:56PM (#44062003)
    I got as far as "Mississippi Attorney General" and stopped reading, because I knew what followed would simultaneously knock points off my IQ and make me weep for the lost potential of a once-sentient species.
  • That shining beacon of Justice for All.
  • As far as I understand it, query autocomplete is mostly, but not entirely, social in nature - which turns out to be a pretty good predictor. It is quite likely that I will be looking for the same thing as millions of other people. I think autocomplete is probably a combination of social and algorithmic, And for me, even for technical queries, it works so well that sometimes I am astounded - or disappointed that I was not the first to have a brilliant idea.

    • by Entropius (188861)

      I dunno, often I type something like "26", and it autocompletes to "26 weeks pregnant" (basically, any small two-digit number autocompletes to "XX weeks preggers"), when all I really wanted to do was a little math in Google Calculator.

  • I didn't know there were Brits in Congress...

  • Other suggestions:

    "how to reduce my carbon footprint" --- "and not seem smug and think I actually make a difference"
    "why is the earth warming" --- "when the sun shines hotter and brighter"
    "Apple is the greatest" --- "manipulator of marketing towards stupid people"
    "when did the dinosaurs exist" --- "in the figment of a heathen's imagination"
    "what is evolution" --- "but a plot to educate Christians"
    "how to overthrow the US government" --- "and throw them a great party"

    Also cool is the auto-complete will chang

  • See no evil
    Hear no evil
    Speak no evil
    Think no evil

    These are what the 3 monkeys advice. There are only 3 monkeys.

  • Are you still supporting forensic fraudster Steven Hayne?

    http://reason.com/blog/2010/03/12/mississipip-ag-jim-hood-still [reason.com]

  • The National Association of Attorneys General

    In English this means "National Association for the removal and criminalization of the 1st amendment and other pesky rights"

    These Men and Women are the single most evil people out there in the USA, They enjoy destroying people's lives to further their own careers.

  • by bjwest (14070) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @04:24PM (#44064457)

    You know what I do if what I'm searching for doesn't autopop up while I'm typing? I finish typing. I don't give up and say "fuck it, I guess what I want isn't out there" until I type it in and get no results.

    I really hope the youth of today aren't so spoiled that they give up searching if what they're searching for isn't in the autocomplete buffer.

  • Personally, I can't stand the Google auto-complete "feature" - and all the traffic (and, I'm sure Google tracking) it generates - and have it switched off. Furthermore, my local proxy/filter is configured to ensure it stays off. I don't enable Javascript on Google pages either. I'm not a Luddite, but just want a simple search page w/o crap, Javascript, animations, etc... I'm sure I'd have the same (or more) concerns/complaints about Bing, if I ever used it.

    • Personally, I can't stand the Google auto-complete "feature" - and all the traffic (and, I'm sure Google tracking) it generates - and have it switched off. Furthermore, my local proxy/filter is configured to ensure it stays off. I don't enable Javascript on Google pages either. I'm not a Luddite, but just want a simple search page w/o crap, Javascript, animations, etc... I'm sure I'd have the same (or more) concerns/complaints about Bing, if I ever used it.

      P.S. The same goes for Google "Instant" - sigh.

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