Thursday, January 19, 2006; Posted: 10:53 a.m. EST (15:53 GMT)
The Bush administration, seeking to revive an online pornography law struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, has subpoenaed Google Inc. for details on what its users have been looking for through its popular search engine.
Google has refused to comply with the subpoena, issued last year, for a broad range of material from its databases, including a request for 1 million random Web addresses and records of all Google searches from any one-week period, lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department said in papers filed Wednesday in federal court in San Jose.
Privacy advocates have been increasingly scrutinizing Google's practices as the company expands its offerings to include e-mail, driving directions, photo-sharing, instant messaging and Web journals.
The government contends it needs the data to determine how often pornography shows up in online searches as part of an effort to revive an Internet child protection law that was struck down two years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court on free-speech grounds.
The 1998 Child Online Protection Act would have required adults to use access codes or other ways of registering before they could see objectionable material online, and it would have punished violators with fines up to $50,000 or jail time. The high court ruled that technology such as filtering software may better protect children.
The matter is now before a federal court in Pennsylvania, and the government wants the Google data to help argue that the law is more effective than software in protecting children from porn.
The Mountain View-based company told The San Jose Mercury News that it opposes releasing the information because it would violate the privacy rights of its users and would reveal company trade secrets.
Nicole Wong, an associate general counsel for Google, said the company will fight the government's efforts "vigorously."
"Google is not a party to this lawsuit, and the demand for the information is overreaching," Wong said.
January 21, 2006, 02:39 PM
Haha, if my EMPLOYER did searches for firearms related queries on google they would come up with endless stuff. Do it over the entire US and they would be buried.
January 21, 2006, 05:58 PM
If all they really wanted were the statistics, I am sure Google would be happy to charge them for the time taken to gather them according to the gov'ts criteria. They would save everybody a bunch of time and money, and do a first-rate job (none of which the govt will do with the data).
They want the raw search criteria and results... probably so they can pick and choose what subsets to use for their statistics, and re-mine that data for other purposes.
Of course, they could claim the info is public afterward (hurting Google) by entering it into a court record and/or resell the data to others for insight into Google's algorithms (hurt Google and cash in). I am not surprised in the least that Google's going to fight this tooth and nail.
January 21, 2006, 06:05 PM
i'm not giving up my prediction earlier, but it is interesting that a few news stories i read today are blaming the 8% drop in google stock friday (it's gone from $475 wed to $399 today) in large part to google's kicking against the pricks.
January 22, 2006, 05:29 PM
Google does all sorts of things FOR A FEE.
Even if the information contains nothing that would violate any individual's privacy or freedom, it is wrong for the Federal Government to order any individual or any business (group of individuals) to work for free, to use its expensive equipment for free, and to use its operating expenses to support a forced unpaid service.
This could even be a violation of anti-slavery law.
It is no different from the government ordering a cab driver to provide free rides for every government employee, wherever they wanted to go.
Also, a person or business cannot, except in specific circumstances like a war, be forced to do any work, even if paid.
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