Norwegian daily Dagbladet is furious that Anders Breivik spent 200 days searching Google for terms such as “how to make a bomb” before he went on his killing spree.
Its logic is that with all the data Google collects about us and our search histories, could the company use its technical prowess to help catch terrorists and mass murderers before they commit crimes.
Google uses data from searches to improve its targeted advertising and search rankings so why didn’t the search engine catch the Norway killer?
Despite this being a huge invasion of privacy worthy of China, the call is being repeated by politicians and police across Europe. After all it is better to surrender to terrorists and give a right-wing loony the sort of political system he likes by riding rough shod of over the freedoms of others.
But the situation is not only been seen that way by Norway. Already in Australia, which has been drifting down the road towards a Brother Society, is using the Norway killings as justification for its controlling ways.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, former police boss Nigel Phair has said that the real-time monitoring of search queries would be a welcomed “additional intelligence tool for national security agencies”.
He called on Google to be a “good citizen” and report users it has identified as potentially high risk.
However, automated monitoring could ruin the lives of many people. At the moment Google’s algorithms pitch you adverts. If they get you wrong, they send you the wrong adverts. However if they label you a terrorist then you are going to be on no fly lists and your house and computer searched.
Roger Clarke, chairman of the Australian Privacy Foundation pointed out that Google regularly monitoring search terms without a court order would raise significant privacy issues.
While some kinds of automated monitoring would occasionally produce a lead. But the leads would be swamped by the massive false positives, and the collateral damage to freedoms would be massive.
Then there is the small matter of searching for something, such as bomb making instructions, wasn’t the same as actually committing the criminal act. Or to stop politicians using Google to find people who are looking for information on other criminal activity, such as growing dope.
Anyway it is not as if Anders Breivik had not been flagged to the authorities before the attacks. Breivik was flagged for illegally purchasing a large amount of chemicals online but Norway’s intelligence service decided he was likely to be using them in his farming business.