Join 3,377 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)

Tags:

Webmasters, Feel Safe, The FBI Can't Find You
August 22, 2006 8:26 AM   Subscribe

Federal Court to FBI: Learn To Use Google A federal court ordered the FBI to use Google. Apparently they didn't already know about it.
posted by expriest (24 comments total)

 
There goes the wall between church and state.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:33 AM on August 22, 2006


You realize that somewhere in FBI HQ someone has been tasked with writing a Google Procedures guide. "To search the Internet, enter http://www.google.com in the address bar of the browser. The browser can be started by clicking the large lowercase e on your FBI Desktop." It will include where to enter your search terms, where to click, and how to read the results. This will cost the taxpayers roughly $75,000.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:43 AM on August 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


I used to see the phone bills for a company I used to work for. 150 employees with separate phones. You would not believe the # of times people used 555-1212 instead of searching for the number via the internet. Could have saved the companies thousands of dollars a year (if I were in a position to send a memo at the time).

It sometimes takes people years to adapt to new technology, and the internet is no exception to that rule. My younger cousins (who are still in high school) know far more about computers, gadget, and the 'net than I do, and I'm sure this pattern will remain the same. The FBI is not made up of 20-somethings who grew up using this technology.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 8:48 AM on August 22, 2006


pastabagel, that is so true.
posted by empath at 8:53 AM on August 22, 2006


...you mean they haven't been? This is a hoax, right? Isn't that like an accountant still using an abacus? Or a novelist still using a manual typewriter?
posted by ZachsMind at 8:58 AM on August 22, 2006


Er, read the article. It doesn't say the FBI is unaware of Google. It says they didn't bother to use Google in this particular case.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:05 AM on August 22, 2006


If I use Google, I'll see dead people?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:07 AM on August 22, 2006


So this opinion uses 'google' as a verb. I think Google is going to swiftly loose their hold on the word, because it is in such common use now as a generic verb for 'search on the internet'.
posted by raedyn at 9:08 AM on August 22, 2006


raedyn, i haven't heard Kleenex complaining about that sortof thing. Ususally that's what companies dream of.
posted by wumpus at 9:12 AM on August 22, 2006


Actually to be specific, google means searching on the Internet with google. If you go to yahoo.com you're not googling, even though i believe they use a similar search engine.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:23 AM on August 22, 2006


It doesn't say the FBI is unaware of Google. It says they didn't bother to use Google in this particular case.

Exactly. In this case, "reasonable efforts" means "do as little as possible in order to not turn over the tapes".
posted by Thorzdad at 9:26 AM on August 22, 2006


They're here to protect us?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:27 AM on August 22, 2006


Does it actually diminish their trademark if it's used as a verb meaning "to search on the internet using Google"?

I mean, I know a lot of companies appear to have the impression that their trademarks are doomed unless people use them exclusively as adjectives, but is this more than just a superstition?
posted by moss at 9:27 AM on August 22, 2006


i haven't heard Kleenex complaining about that sort of thing

Xerox does though
posted by InfidelZombie at 9:29 AM on August 22, 2006


raedyn, i haven't heard Kleenex complaining about that sortof thing. Ususally that's what companies dream of.

Actually they have. If you flip through some of the writing magazines available (ie., Writers Digest, Poets and Writers) some companies have advertised to instruct writers not to use their trademarked brand names in their work.

I think Google et al. are really perfectly happy with the ubiquity of their name use, but trademark law being what it is, they've got to make a stink about such things to maintain their hold on it.
posted by Zinger at 9:33 AM on August 22, 2006


I really wish there were more courts out there telling people not to be fucktards.

Also: can we start citing people on Ask Metafilter for "failing to use google" too? Please?
posted by blacklite at 9:39 AM on August 22, 2006


As expected, the FBI reports that, because “[t]his case concerns audio tapes,” and “[a]s no social security numbers are on the tapes at issue, this website [the SSDI] was not checked.” Needless to say, no one announces his or her social security number in ordinary conversation -- not even at a birthday party.
I suggest reading the the actual opinion (pdf), by DC Circuit Judge Garland.

Apparently, one source the FBI holds in high regard when determining the "life status" of an individual (that is, the status of being alive or being dead) is Who Was Who.
posted by zennie at 9:54 AM on August 22, 2006


They were probably too busy monitoring my email and phone conversations to google my public rants. (Just kidding, FBI! There aren't any.) (Oh wait, they're not reading this anyway.)
posted by beatrice at 10:55 AM on August 22, 2006


Further on the trade name thing, I once received a letter from the wonderful folks at thermos telling me in no uncertain terms that I could not use their product's name in a newspaper column without capitalizing it and including the registered trademark notification, so yeah, some companies get quite uptight when you use their imaginary words outside of their approved contexts, even well after said word has entered to common lexicon.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 12:21 PM on August 22, 2006


I need somebody to get me a coke and then xerox this polaroid of me stuffing kleenex into a thermos. actually, it's my friend stuffing the kleenex in; i was busy and will need you to photoshop me in.
posted by eustacescrubb at 1:11 PM on August 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


afterwhich you'll want some aspirin or heroin for your headache. fortunately, as a man, you don't have to suffer the indignity of the bikini or brassiere. if you live in a town like mine, you're also spared the noise of the jake brake. just keep your zipper up, please.

I could go on, but a reasonable list of expired trademarks. all for lack of adequate trademark defense.
posted by jdfan at 1:33 PM on August 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


Best. Use. Of. "Google it, motherfucker." Ever.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:16 PM on August 22, 2006


Zinger : "I think Google et al. are really perfectly happy with the ubiquity of their name use, but trademark law being what it is, they've got to make a stink about such things to maintain their hold on it."

Since, unlike "kleenex", people are using "google" as a verb, not as a replacement word for "search engine", Google could just trademark (if this is possible) the verb "google", meaning "to search for on Google". If someone says "just google it", then, it wouldn't dilute the trademark, as it would likely be interpreted as being used precisely as defined. Dilution would only happen if someone said "I googled it on Yahoo", where it's clear that it's being used as a generic subsitite for "search on a search engine". So Google could, to some degree, have their cake and eat it too.
posted by Bugbread at 4:10 AM on August 23, 2006


Sorry, I hadn't anticipated the magnitude of the derail my flip comment would engender.

From the opinion (quoting self in earlier appeals of same issue):
The government's obligation in this regard is to "ma[k]e a reasonable effort to ascertain life status." ... In short, "the proper inquiry is whether the Government has made reasonable use of the information readily available to it, and whether there exist reasonable alternative methods that the Government failed to employ."
... with respect to the FBI's reliance on its institutional knowledge, it appears that the Bureau has "been completely passive on the issue, taking death into account only if the fact has happened to swim into [its agents'] line of vision."
The opinion is easy to read, being worded clearly and pretty strongly denouncing the FBI's minimal efforts. It points to the Bureau's use of the "Who was Who" means they accept external sources, and goes on to say (brilliantly, IMO):
one has to ask why -- in the age of the Internet -- the FBI restricts itself to a dead-tree publication, with limited utility for the FBI's purpose, and with entries restricted to a small fraction of even the "prominent and noteworthy"? Why, in short, doesn't the FBI just Google the two names? Surely, in the Internet age, a "reasonable alternative" for finding out whether a prominent person is dead is to use Google (or any other search engine) to find a report of that person's death.
The FPP is completely out to lunch, though. The Judge did not order them to use Google. In fact, it specifically said "We do not suggest that the FBI must use one, or any, of the search methods outlined above." They also did not search FBI databases by the people's names for their date of birth or social security number which could be used to determine their 'life status'. All the judge said was that in the face of all these omissions in their search, thethe FBI couldn't really say it had made a reasonable effort.

They were being thick. Judge said "stop being thick". Thank you Judge. He's to be commended for such a plain-language common-sense decision.
posted by raedyn at 8:22 AM on August 23, 2006


« Older Red-Hot and Filthy Library Smut....  |  One small german army and a tr... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments