Google Crawler May Have Helped Leak Colorado Drug Informants

Colorado sheriffs are working with Google to find out how their database "mistakenly revealed the identities of confidential drug informants and listed phone numbers, addresses and Social Security numbers of suspects, victims and others interviewed during criminal investigations", NPR reported.

The security breach involves some 200,000 people, and sheriff's deputies in Mesa County, Colorado, are examined through the database to determine who is in jeopardy."That in itself is probably the biggest concern we have, because we're talking about people's personal safety," Sheriff Stan Hilkey said.

The FBI and Google Inc. are investigating who accessed the database and if it was copied and put on the web, NPR reported, and that the list had been sitting on what was thought to be a secure server.

Hilkey "surmised that a Google Web crawler that can be programed to troll the Internet for specific sets of information, such as nine-digit numbers that can be Social Security numbers, found the server".

"A Google spokesperson didn't immediately return calls for comment," NPR reported, and that the FBI were involved with the investigation.

About the author

Frank Watson has been involved with the Web since it started. For the past five years, he headed SEM for FXCM -- at one time one of the top 25 spenders with AdWords. He has worked with most of the major analytics companies and pioneered the ability to tie online marketing with offline conversion.

He has now started his own marketing agency, Kangamurra Media. This new venture will keep him busy when he is not editing the Search Engine Watch forums, blogging at a number of authoritative sites, and developing some interesting online community sites.

He was one of the first 100 AdWords Professionals, a Yahoo and Overture Ambassador, and a member or mod of many of the industry forums. He is also on the Click Quality Council and has worked hard to diminish click fraud.