From The New York Times:
Kathryn Hanson, a former telecommunications engineer who lives in Oakland, Calif., was looking at BBC News online last week when she came across an item about a British politician who had resigned over a reported affair with a "rent boy."
It was the first time Ms. Hanson had seen the term, so, in search of a definition, she typed it into Google. As Ms. Hanson scrolled through the results, she saw that several of the sites were available only to people over 18. She suddenly had a frightening thought. Would Google have to inform the government that she was looking for a rent boy - a young male prostitute?
Ms. Hanson, 45, immediately told her boyfriend what she had done. "I told him I'd Googled 'rent boy,' just in case I got whisked off to some Navy prison in the dead of night," she said.
Ms. Hanson's reaction arose from last week's reports that as part of its effort to uphold an online pornography law, the Justice Department had asked a federal judge to compel Google to turn over records on millions of its users' search queries. Google is resisting the request, but three of its competitors - Yahoo, MSN and America Online - have turned over similar information.
I understand the issue. I do. And I'm glad the fine folks at Google are thus far resisting turning over their records. If for no other reason than sticking it to "the man". But seriously, the people who have their panties in a bunch over this issue are delusional at best.
Aside from these salient and significant points made further into the aforementioned article:
Mr. Cohen said he doubted there would be much compromising of his individual privacy because the amount of data collected by the government was so voluminous. "My rationale tells me that with close to 300 million people in the U.S., and about 45 to 50 percent of households having Internet access, that I don't need to be too concerned with my search engine behavior," he said.
Susan P. Crawford, a professor at the Cardozo School of Law in New York, agreed that the sheer volume of information obtained by the government was likely to dilute privacy threats.
"More experienced Internet users would understand that in the mountain of search-related data available in response to a subpoena, it is very unlikely that anything referring to them personally would be revealed," Professor Crawford said.
I have to add my personal two cents to the discourse and take the position of someone rooted in reality.
What the fuck is it about you that's so special you think anyone from any government agency gives a shit what you do or where you go on-line? Honestly, the sheer arrogance is astounding. Assuming you're not downloading mountains of kiddie porn or trading nuclear warhead assembly secrets (I am so fucked on the next Justice Department search), I would say you can go on Googling "rent boy" to your heart's content. I know I plan to.