Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

Your online history, right there on display...

So I finally decided to install Google Desktop, partly because it's the sort of technology I like to keep an eye on on principle (you never know what we're going to integrate with next), and partly because it's quite possible that it might be useful in development (if, say, it indexes code halfway competently). Overall, it's become a pretty interesting toy, although it has some irritating quirks -- in particular, the way that it initially decides to take over a chunk of your screen and rearranges all your icons around it. (I hate programs that do that.)

But the most useful-but-disconcerting feature has to be the "Browse Timeline", which shows your order of access of Pretty Much Everything -- not just web history, but your searches, which emails you accessed at what times, and so on. On the one hand, I'd bet that it's remarkably useful in a number of contexts -- there are certainly times when I ask myself "Okay, I know I found this site as part of digging around at that time, but I don't remember exactly what it was".

OTOH, this is pretty much a prosecutor's wet dream: I can't imagine that it's going to be very long before it first gets introduced as evidence in some insider-trading case, since it demonstrates not just what you know, but *the exact order in which you did things*. I mean, I can only imagine what they would have given to be able to say, "Ms. Stewart, your own computer shows that you sent the request to sell ImClone less than ten minutes after receiving this message from your broker. Do you really expect us to believe that this was a coincidence?"

Surely this is going to be one of the better examples of the Law of Unintended Consequences. I'll be very curious to see whether it gets formally banned at some offices for exactly this reason...

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