Saturday, October 25, 2008

Searching dirty

Librarian Genie Tyburski teaches an online class through the University of North Carolina on web research.

Sounds dull and dry, right? Uh, no.

Try, for example, using some of her suggested search terms on Google to find stuff that people don't want you to find:

  • "not for public dissemination"

  • "not for public release"

  • "official use only" (variations include FOUO and U//FOUO)

  • "company confidential"

  • "internal use only"

For Genie's class, I tried some of these search terms combined with *NC*. I found a local political candidate's profile, with his home phone number, marked "not for public release."

That's one general theme that emerges from Genie's class: Information that is supposed to be private can sometimes inadvertently leak onto the web, through careless coding, or scanning, or editing, or incorrect placement on a server.

We've debated in class the legality and ethics of finding such information, and concluded that using the tools to find such information fall into legal, ethical realms like much of the reporting labeled "investigative." The ethical questions get sticky when you weigh what to do with the found private information.

Regardless, Genie's tools should be familiar tools for reporters and other journalists. Read her article and play around with the search terms sometime.

And check the updated "Reference" sidebar here for links to other resources, including Power Googling.

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