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Researchers See a Post-Snowden Chilling Effect In Our Search Data 138

Posted by samzenpus
from the things-have-changed dept.
Daniel_Stuckey (2647775) writes "How risky is it to use the words "bomb," "plague," or "gun" online? That was a question we posed, tongue in cheek, with a web toy we built last year called Hello NSA. It offers users suggested tweets that use words that drawn from a list of watchwords that analysts at the Dept. of Homeland Security are instructed to search for on social media. "Stop holding my love hostage," one of the tweets read. "My emotions are like a tornado of fundamentalist wildfire." It was silly, but it was also imagined as an absurdist response to the absurdist ways that dragnet surveillance of the public and non-public Internet jars with our ideas of freedom of speech and privacy. And yet, after reading the mounting pile of NSA PowerPoints, are all of us as comfortable as we used to be Googling for a word like "anthrax," even if we were simply looking up our favorite thrash metal band? Maybe not. According to a new study of Google search trends, searches for terms deemed to be sensitive to government or privacy concerns have dropped "significantly" in the months since Edward Snowden's revelations in July."
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Researchers See a Post-Snowden Chilling Effect In Our Search Data

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 05, 2014 @02:09PM (#46920939)

    Show the incumbent protection machine (98% incumbent reelection rate) how much you despise them. Vote independent, and if that isn't a choice, vote for the challenger, regardless of party.

  • Or... OR (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jeffmeden (135043) on Monday May 05, 2014 @02:15PM (#46921011) Homepage Journal

    What if Google is just conveniently forgetting to log more of those terms so that they don't have to do as much work snooping on people? I mean, if you don't have as many terrorist suspects showing up on your search engine you surely wont have as many illegal search warrants to process.

  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Monday May 05, 2014 @02:40PM (#46921215) Homepage

    searches for terms deemed to be sensitive to government or privacy concerns have dropped "significantly" in the months since Edward Snowden's revelations in July.

    It is hard for me to find this shift to be acceptable. The government's oppressive surveillance must not lead to people changing the information they consume. That is the very epitome of cultural programming, the cost of which is far to great for our society to suffer.

    I think we have a solution; decentralized distribution of the very kinds of information that is being chilled. Copies of Wikipedia, Eroid.org, The Anarchists Cookbook (OK, I'm dating myself, and showing my ignorance of modern anarchist material online, but whatever the modern equivalent of that book is), and similar materials, written to 16 Gig USB sticks, and available for purchase at your local hackerspace for $20. Pop it into your computer, and read whatever you want without the goverment spying on you. Maybe even make it a bootable distro, with networking disabled, so you can be truly locked down (except for airgap-jumping attacks, of course, but those are still pretty esoteric). Maybe call it "Thoughtcrime On A Stick". Hmm, actually, I like that name so much I'm grabbing the domain names.

    Don't get me wrong, I don't relish the idea of making that sort of information more readily available; what peaceful minded person would? But if the alternative is chilling human knowledge, and the empirical evidence shows that it is already happening, what choice do I have?

  • by NotSanguine (1917456) on Monday May 05, 2014 @11:13PM (#46925359) Journal

    ...who are ruining our everything.

    Those who would take our freedoms are the ones who are "ruining our everything." Those engaged in asymmetric warfare (including terror techniques) are definitely a concern. However, we've compromised our ideals (liberty, freedom of expression, freedom from government intrusion into the practice of our belief systems, etc., etc., etc.) with the focus on that small group, by allowing the government to intrude on our lives, our persons and our ideas.

    You're still more likely to be killed by lightning than in violent attack against the general populace. You're many, many times more likely to die in or by an automobile than in such an attack. Strange that we're not allocating our resources to fit the probability of such occurrences.

    That leads me to believe that the agenda of those engaged in curtailing our liberty is not one of preventing such attacks, but something else. What is that something else? A good question. It's possible that there is a nefarious plot to destroy our way of life (which, if true, is succeeding). However, I think Hanlon's Razor [wikipedia.org] should be applied here.

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