Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Justice Department files opposing brief, sets up showdown

The Justice Department disputed Google's defense of private search results and continued requests to view search information would violate privacy rights in a brief filed yesterday. If you remember, in January Google was taken to court for failing to comply with a subpoena duces tecum asking for a week's worth of search information in an effort to enforce a child pornography law. As was discussed here, this effort was and is an unjustified breach of privacy and, because the information requested was not directly related to the facts of the case, the subpoena should not be enforced. The feds didn't see it that way. The Associated Press reports:
Google Inc.'s concerns that a Bush administration demand to examine millions of its users' Internet search requests would violate privacy rights are unwarranted, the Justice Department said Friday in a court filing... The department believes that the information will help revive an online child protection law that the Supreme Court has blocked. By showing the wide variety of Web sites that people find through search engines, the government hopes to prove that Internet filters are not strong enough to prevent children from viewing pornography and other inappropriate material online.
Once again, it seems that Google is the last search engine to give away private information. Even though it has been criticized for the amount of personal data it collects and maintains on its servers, Google will be the last company to comply with the Justice Department.
Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Inc.'s MSN and Time Warner Inc.'s America Online already have provided some of the search engine information sought by the government. All three companies say they didn't reveal any of their users' personal information in complying with the government subpoena. Google, though, has derided the government's demands as an unjustified fishing expedition that would set off privacy alarms and expose its closely guarded trade secrets.
This sets up a showdown in front of U.S. District Judge James Ware on March 13 in San Jose.


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