There is much potential for both the government and the Internet to bring about positive changes in society that are only possible because of technological innovation.
That said, there is a point when it is in the countrys best interests in accordance with our civil liberties for the government and the Internet to stay separate.
This Tuesday, Google announced a new program, Google Flu Trends, which uses search engine inputs to figure out where the influenza virus is active. Google records the location from which the search was made and reports these areas to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While we approve of Googles original intent to help the government deal with this illness the idea that a persons private Internet searches on something as personal as their health could be reported to the government without the persons permission is concerning. Furthermore, Google has made this information public at google.org/flutrends.
We worry that this could be the start of a slippery slope in which areas with high Google searches of terms such as AIDS or STD symptoms could be made public as well.
While this editorial board supports innovation in technology, innovation must not come at the expense of basic liberties we enjoy as Americans. We urge Internet companies and the government to exercise restraint in their use of the Internet.