[NetBehaviour] Insatiable Abstraction Engine (fwd)

{ brad brace } bbrace at eskimo.com
Mon Nov 26 16:39:50 CET 2007

Information search giant Google, Inc.  announced Thursday
the release of Google Body, a search service aiming to index
the internal and external anatomy of every living creature
on the planet. "Google has long been dedicated to making
information both useful and universally accessible," notes
Google VP of Product Development Eric Hind. "We're happy now
to extend search to information about human bodies, mine and
yours, inside and out, from the number of follicles on my
head to the length of the President's toenails."

The project, known as Google Body, sees the company
partnering with public transportation systems, libraries,
and motor vehicle departments to place scanning equipment in
high-traffic doorways and public thoroughfares. Though
details of the agreements are scarce and reportedly subject
participating city and state officials to strict
non-disclosure terms, Google's announcement confirmed that
the project is active in several major U.S. population
centers, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and
New York City, with agreements with at least 16 other cities
in late-stage negotiation. "We've passed proof-of-concept at
this point," adds Hind, Rand now our focus is scalability
and rolling this thing out nationwide."

The service, which has been available for some three months
to invitation-only beta testers, enables users to search for
aggregate information about the anatomy of user-defined
groups. "The service is a boon to the medical research
community," says Dr. Jennifer Guns of the Johns Hopkins
Clinic for Specialism. "Nothing will replace truly
controlled trials, but the ability to get a snapshot of,
say, the blood pressure of men between 50 and 65 on New
York's Upper East Side, can certainly give companies an idea
of where they might best spend their research dollars.

Early testers have remarked upon a fuzzy-logic "match my
organ" feature, which helps users get in touch with the
nearest, most suitable donor for multiple organ systems. "We
think of Body as way to bring people together," remarks
Google's Hind. The most common searches among testers,
however, exploited the service's ability to produce
three-dimensional images of the bodies of individual
subjects. "I was shocked when I saw it," exclaims Larry
Blender of Carson City. "I mean, one, where did they get a
3-D rendering of my ass, and, two, does my ass really look
like that? I admit that I satisfied some of my curiosity
about a few of my neighbors and co-workers before I thought
to search for myself, but I was still really shocked to see
it up there."

The service has understandably raised concerns among privacy
activists, who point to reports that early users include
some well-known insurance companies and two prominent
executive recruiting firms. "You know what the top two
search terms are, after 'ass'?" asks David Deerfield of
People and Privacy, a privacy-focused community outreach
group. "They're 'aorta' and 'arterial plaque.' Who do you
think is conducting those searches? There's no doubt in my
mind that there are insurance company bots scouring this
thing and we think it should stop."

Responding to criticism from privacy groups, Google's Hind
pointed to the program's opt-out policy. "We are very
concerned about user privacy, and that's why we will not
make publicly available any information about anybody who
let's us know they do not want to participate by wearing an
Opt-Out headband when in public. Google archives information
about those individuals, but does not make it searchable."
The yellow and black vinyl headbands can be requested free
of charge by writing to the company at its Mountain View


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