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<nettime> Insatiable Abstraction Engine
{ brad brace } on Mon, 26 Nov 2007 16:56:08 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Insatiable Abstraction Engine

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

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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