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What Google Knows: Privacy and Internet Search Engines

Omer Tene

College of Management Academic Studies - School of Law

October 1, 2007

Utah Law Review, Forthcoming

Search engines are the most important phenomenon on the Internet today and Google is the gold standard of search. Google evokes ambivalent feelings. It is adored for its ingenuity, simple, modest-looking interface and superb services offered at no (evident) cost. Yet increasingly, it is feared by privacy advocates who view it as a private sector big brother posing perhaps the biggest privacy problem of all times. Google is an informational gatekeeper harboring previously unimaginable riches of personal data. Billions of search queries stream across Google's servers each month, the aggregate thoughtstream of humankind, online. Google compiles individual search logs, containing information about users' fears and expectations, interests and passions, and ripe with information that is financial, medical, sexual, political, in short - personal in nature. How did Google evolve from being a benevolent giant seeking to do no evil into a privacy menace reviled by human rights advocates worldwide? Are the fears of Google's omniscient presence justified or overstated? What personal data should Google be allowed to retain and for how long? What rules should govern access to Google's database? What are the legal protections currently in place and are they sufficient to quell the emerging privacy crisis? These are the main issues addressed in this article.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 72

Keywords: Google, Internet, privacy, data protection, technology, search engines, personal data, EU law, surveillance, monitoring, communications, 4th Amendment

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Date posted: October 19, 2007 ; Last revised: February 1, 2014

Suggested Citation

Tene, Omer, What Google Knows: Privacy and Internet Search Engines (October 1, 2007). Utah Law Review, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1021490 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1021490

Contact Information

Omer Tene (Contact Author)
College of Management Academic Studies - School of Law ( email )
HOME PAGE: http://www.omertene.com
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