Beyond considering the ethical and legal implications of the US Government’s.

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    Beyond considering the ethical and legal implications of the US Government’s demand for Google’s search frequency data to fight pornography and other age-inappropriate materials, the government seems to have a real cause for concern. Although Google doesn’t release its search frequency data, other smaller search engines do.

    It’s the job of Epiar Inc., an Edmonton-based company, to collect and analyse this data, providing market research on the relative demand for various products and services, brand equity studies, and search engine marketing data. Epiar recently turned its attention to studying the problem of child pornography.

    The basis of the study involved investigating the search frequencies of the top 11,932 searched phrases containing the word “nude” or “naked”. The results showed that, mixed with a seemingly endless list of celebrities (topped by Britney Spears), there are literally millions of searches per year using phrases that clearly indicate people are looking for child pornography.

    In a separate analysis of the co-occurring words within these phrases, Epiar found that out of an estimated billion searches per year containing the words “nude” or “naked”, over 19 million also used the words “preteen” or “pre-teen”. Well over 10 million searches per year included the words “child”, “children” or “kids” and 80 million searches included the word “girls” or “boys”.

    These results represent just the tip of the iceberg. The phrases analysed did not include hundreds of other child pornographic searches that may not use the words naked or nude. For example, an offender may also enter “child porn” or “preteen porn”. By Epiar’s estimate, there are well over 500 million searches per year related to child pornography conducted by somewhere between 5 and 15 million offenders worldwide.

    This information is, in essence, some of what the US government is demanding from Google. With over a 35% market share in searches, it naturally has the capability of providing the largest sample size of search frequency data.

    The Bush administration had originally asked for two months’ worth of search terms; the millions of phrases used in about 25 billion searches. After the case received worldwide attention, the Department of Justice reduced its request to 5,000 phrases. On March 14, U.S. District Judge James Ware’s comments suggested that he is inclined to force Google to provide the government with, if not all, at least something.

    Unfortunately, even if the government does overcome the legal barriers to obtaining this data, the data has little value in actually nabbing the offenders. Google and other search engines only know what is being searched. What they don’t know is who is doing the searching.

    The government, though, has stated that it intends to use the data to support their allegation that pornography is an extremely prevalent and unavoidable part of the Internet, which will help the DOJ resurrect the Child Online Protection Act. Known as COPA, the act was passed in 1998 to protect children from harmful sexual material on the Internet but was blocked by the courts.

    In the same action, the Bush administration originally asked for the billions of web pages Google has indexed, but has since reduced that to requiring a random sample of about 50,000 sites. Rival search engines Microsoft, Yahoo, and AOL have already complied with the government’s demands.

    For more information on Epiar Inc., internet market research, or the details of this study, call 780.428.5530 or visit website for Child Pornography Staggering

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