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Lawyers raise fears over AltaVista's search engine
From: Richard Forno <rforno () infowarrior org>
Date: Mon, 18 Jun 2001 08:29:40 -0400

Lawyers raise fears over AltaVista's search engine
By Tim Richardson
Posted: 18/06/2001 at 12:08 GMT

Lawyers have warned that companies using AltaVista's new search engine
technology are at risk of breaching data protection laws.

Launched last week, AltaVista's new software lets people search entire
corporate networks allowing employees to access all network folders,
personal computers and emails.

Announcing the launch, Phil Rugani, executive VP of AltaVista's Search
Software division said: "Wherever data resides, whether it is structured or
unstructured, AltaVista's software architecture provides a single, universal
view to create efficiencies and more intelligent decision making throughout
an organisation."

And therein lies the problem.

Lawyers are warning that the search facility could be too intrusive. Unless
these are protected in some way, it could allow others to pry into personal
records and emails.

E-commerce solicitor Joanne Ashley of Sprecher Grier Halberstam, said:
"Companies using this tool are going to have to ring-fence human resources
data and consider how to address the issue of the search tool not
discriminating between work and personal emails and information.

"If employee personal data is released companies could find themselves in
breach of the Data Protection Act. For this reason I advise companies to
make sure they have appropriate email and Internet use policies in place and
to get advice on monitoring employee communications before buying this
software," she said.

She also warned that strategic and board-level confidential information
could also be at risk unless protected.

On Friday, The Register asked AltaVista to comment on the story. We were
told no one was available but assured someone would be available first thing
Monday morning.

No one from AltaVista was available for comment this morning either. ®

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