Could making an innocent Google search for online information lead to an unwelcome trip down to the local police station? Yes it can indeed, as was recently reported by the BBC in a story headed "Google search led to arrest of cleared campaigner." This was the traumatic event experienced by Mr Robert Hutchinson, a resident of Bermondsey in South London, who was arrested under suspicion of breaching the Computer Misuse Act.
Supported by other local residents, Mr Hutchinson was campaigning against a proposed development by the Leathermarket Community Benefit Society (CBS) to build new council homes on an outdoor sports court. While researching for details he came across the minutes of a CBS Board meeting and other documentation which displayed no indications that they were confidential, so he duly shared the information with The Register.
However, the CBS insisted that the contents he released were in a password protected zone and accused Mr. Hutchinson of making a data security breach, hence the police involvement. Fortunately, as the heading of the BBC's report indicates, he was cleared of any wrongdoing.
So what are the lessons to be learned from this unfortunate incident?
Search Engine Capabilities
It is clear that, for whatever reason, the password protected zone installed for the Leathermarket CBS was unable to block that particular Google search. And the capabilities of the incredible search engine should never be underestimated, especially when Google Advanced Search is deployed. Google describes how: "It uses a variety of Google search operators that consists of special characters and commands – also known as “advanced operators” – that goes beyond a normal Google search."
This is where DNN (once again) comes into its own, with ways to offer added protection for confidential or sensitive online content.
Firstly, there is the opportunity with the DNN CMS platform for disabling search indexing for web pages, a process which is described in these DNN Corp Support instructions. Indexing is the process where search engines will crawl the internet to identify web pages and store the information within an organised database.
In general, this service works exceptionally well for businesses providing online content about their products and services as well as for web users seeking information and maybe make an online purchase from an ecommerce site. Businesses will use the techniques of SEO to facilitate the search process and drive traffic to their websites and ecommerce facilities.
However, because this process is so rapid and efficient, those who wish to post confidential online are advised by DNN Corp that the process of destabilising search indexing must be “done immediately after page creation. If search engines have already indexed a page, making this change will not remove it from the search results, and you will need to contact search engines directly to recrawl the site.”
A second option available to DNN website owners is the ability to add what is termed as “role based content” to their sites, which can be reserved for restricted viewing by targeted users and not accessible to the general public.
It is a simple process to perform as we demonstrate in our DyNNamite Video Tutorial #7. As in all our video tutorials, the language is non-technical and we aim to make the presentation logical and straightforward.
It is features such as these that make the DNN platform so comprehensive in its benefits to users and website administrators. If you have any feedback on this post, or would like to discuss your DNN requirements, then please contact the DyNNamite team now.