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22 November 2002

Google Conspiracy Theory Alive and Well

According to self-confessed Google hater Daniel Brandt, Google Knows What You're Thinking. Mr Brandt, who runs Google Watch, a web site dedicated to exposing the search engine's so-called undermining of the web, has already voiced his opinions on the evils of Google Page Rank. Now he turns his attentions to search terms in the URL of search queries, specifically the GET and POST methods of collecting search terms: 

"Search engines use GET because you can bookmark the search, link the search, and pass data inside the link. However, your search terms end up on the same line as your IP address in standard web logs all over the world with the GET method. This is "referrer" information, which is available to the distant webmaster every time you click on a link from a search results page. The webmaster knows that someone at your IP address accessed his page, and also knows what you were thinking from your search terms".  




This, according to Brandt, is a violation of privacy because such URL's reveal "personally identifiable information" about the searcher. To demonstrate, Brandt used the the standard logs of another conspiracy theory site: CIA On Campus, reverse-resolved the last 50 lines in the log and then compared that with the last 50 referrers from Google searches that led to the site. The result revealed the type of search terms used to find the site, together with detailed referrer IP information which could be easily used to track down the searcher.

Conveniently supporting Brandt's case are search queries that provide maximum shock value such as "psychological warfare" and "questions about CIA spying methods". In this era of terrorist warfare, some people might argue that such search queries deserve any U.S. agency attention they may arouse. But apparently Brandt doesn't agree. He does admit that this phenomenon is not unique to Google and is in fact, common on almost ALL search engines. But that doesn't stop him from using it as part of his anti-Google propaganda.


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