Google to help the public find government records more easily

Or at least that what this article indicates.

Google plans to announce Monday that it has already partnered with four states – Arizona, California, Utah and Virginia – to remove technical barriers that had prevented its search engine, as well as those of Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) (MSFT) and Yahoo Inc. (YHOO) (YHOO), from accessing tens of thousands of public records dealing with education, real estate, health care and the environment.

These newly available records will not be exclusive to the search engines owned by Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.

The idea, according to the story, is to provide better roadmaps to help the public navigate government websites that already contain public records.

J.L. Needham, who manages Google’s public-sector content partnerships, said at least 70 percent of visitors to government Web sites get there by using commercial search engines. But too often, he said, Web searches do not turn up the information people are looking for simply because government computer systems aren’t programmed in a way that allows commercial search engines to access their databases.

Still, if users can’t get the information they’re looking for, they blame the search engine, not the government, Needham lamented. The remedy, which Google has been working on with state technology officers for roughly six months, is to create virtual roadmaps by which search engines can find the databases that store public records.

Although you might be inclined to think that this development is a good thing, not everyone is so sure.

Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center, said many public health and financial records shouldn’t necessarily be widely available because they often contain citizens’ Social Security numbers. Such information should be redacted from records regardless of whether they’re viewed online or in person at a government office, he said.

Rotenberg also said Google has a “checkered past” on privacy, noting that the company tracks Internet search users who access government data in order to target ads at them. EPIC recently filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission urging it to investigate Google regarding such activities, as well as its proposed acquisition of online advertising company DoubleClick Inc.

Something to follow.

One thought on “Google to help the public find government records more easily

  1. I have a couple problems with Google:They have a history of giving up PRIVATE information like a cheap hooker… and they do massive data miningThey don’t do enough (i.e. don’t do anything IMHO) to protect those who use things like gmail, blogger or google groups (i.e. blocking, abuse, etc)They have the internet data market firmly by the short hairsI am glad that government records will be more easily accessible. Our elected officials work for us and we should be able to see them. But Google walks and smells like Big Brother to me.Great post!

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