This’ll make you cough your cookies–and then delete them:
It’s only a matter of time before other attorneys realize that a person’s entire search history is available for the asking, and the subpoenas begin to fly. This could happen in civil lawsuits or criminal prosecutions.
That type of fishing expedition is not legally permitted for Web mail providers. But because search engines are not fully shielded by the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act–concocted back in the era of CompuServe and bulletin board systems–their users don’t enjoy the same level of privacy.
Q: Does that mean Google has the technical ability to link a person’s searches together and divulge them when legally required?
Yes. Google says in its FAQ that it records Internet address, date, time, browser type, operating system and a cookie ID.
Author and entrepreneur John Battelle received word from Google this week that the company can perform two important types of matches. (We confirmed this with Google and followed up with additional questions.)
First, given a number of search terms, Google can produce a list of people (identified by Internet address or cookie) who searched for a given term. Second, given a collection of Internet addresses, Google can produce a list of the terms searched by the user of a given address. That effectively creates an electronic dossier of an individual.
Deleting cookies on a regular basis is good computer hygene. Based on the above, it’s also good advice. Not a perfect solution, a good idea all the same.