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Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Data percolation and court injunctions/super-injunctions

7-day search keyword report for this blog 7/6/11
I guess many of us think twice before typing certain search terms into our favourite search engines; but, outside the internet industry, how many have thought they might be breaking a court injunction from merely searching for a subject?

The picture shown is the top-10 search terms used to find this blog.

I was surprised to see at number 3 a name I'd never heard of, in quotes, followed by the word injunction.

I've no idea if this person has an active UK court injunction; however, it highlights a fact that many might not be aware of: every time you click on a link in most search engines, the term you entered in the search box is passed to that website.

In effect entering text into Google and clicking on a link retrieved could be viewed as a direct private message between you and the site operator of any link you click on.  You could pass secret messages to me, so long as my blog appears in the search results. (Cue next week's search listing: James Firth is a ****...)

It's already been documented by other sites (that I won't link to because they are breaching various other injunctions) that search engine search suggestions can breach UK court injunctions.  Now here's an obscure but direct route to tipping website owners (who bother to check the search terms) about the latest injuncted celebrity shag story/corporate toxic waste cover-up*.

*Delete as appropriate

This highlights a data privacy issue; and, once again, the absurd charade of trying to limit the spread of information once it's hit the public domain.

Note 1: Although I've written on digital policy issues surrounding injunctions, I've never (knowingly) used any blog to deliberately flout an injunction.

Note 2: I'll say right now that in practice prosecution would be highly unlikely, however the wording of some UK super-injunctions I've seen attempts to gag people who haven't even been served with the injunction, although I don't think this power of the court has ever been challenged in a higher court on human rights grounds.

@JamesFirth

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