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Show Me The Data! Can’t…

Boing Boing, Battelle, Philipp and I’m sure many others are asking that Microsoft and any others who gave up search data to the U.S. Department of Justice release it publicly, if it is so harmless. Actually, we asked Microsoft the same thing last week at Search Champs.

One thing I liked was that Microsoft understood that the DOJ situation was on everyone’s minds, and thus altered the schedule to add a session discussing the situation. We got to quiz lawyers and product managers, and understand the situation better, even if I think a lot of people didn’t agree with Microsoft in the end.

Others have written much about this, but here are the main points: First, the Department of Justice asked Microsoft for what they call PII, Personally Identifiable Information. Microsoft refused, and said it would only give them what they did, a two column list containing a million random search queries in one column, and the frequency of those queries in the other. There was no PII, because the list was too simple and limited for that.

Second, we asked Microsoft to show us the data. I asked multiple times, in fact, and it was asked by several people during the DOJ session. As we were informed, Microsoft cannot give us the list, because DOJ has locked the data as part of its ongoing an investigation, a revelation that surprised and explained a lot for several people. Microsoft also informed us of something else that I’m afraid I can not divulge, but will eventually make this entire situation a moot and meaningless one.

Microsoft told us that they gave this information to DOJ because it contained no PII and it would be more important to fight a demand for PII. I disagree, arguing that now that the DOJ has a list of search queries that may have on it an entry that indicates someone searched for “bomb making instructions”, it can easily subpoena the IP addresses behind that search, whereas before it had that information a blanket subpoena would have been easier to fight.

The best part of all the discussions at Search Champs was that there were plenty of brilliant minds there, with plenty of brilliant opinions. I’m glad I got to hear so many of them.

January 30th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Search, MSN, General | one comment



links for 2006-01-31

January 30th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Live, Bookmarks, Vista, Windows, General | no comments

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Web Browser For Windows Media Center

Anthony Park has released a web browser for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005. The 591kb download gives you a web browser with a ten-foot interface, and works with Media Center Extenders, essentially giving you a WebTV on your TVs, and through your Xbox 360. You can save favorites and a home page, scroll with your remote, select links and zoom in and out to improve readability.

I’ve always felt Media Center was in dire need of a browser, and I may have missed one at some point. That said, while this adds some much needed functionality to Media Center, it doesn’t do a great job of it. Page scrolling is slow. You use the channel +/- buttons to scroll through links, which takes too long (curiously, using the Page Up/Down keys do the same thing, but much faster). You can’t use the mouse, a shame for those of us with the Microsoft Remote Keyboard for MCE. And I can’t figure out how to get back to the menu bar while viewing a web page. Still, it shows great promise, if the developer continues to improve, and is worth downloading no matter what if you have an Extender, if only to check your mail.

Oh, and it uses Internet Explorer.
(via Chris Lanier)

January 30th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Media Center, XP, Internet Explorer, Windows, Applications, General | one comment