Google Refuses to Turn Over Search Data to Feds

Posted on January 20, 2006

Google has refused to turn of search data to the federal government. The government wants to use the data to revive an Internet child porn law that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down two years ago. A Mercury Times article explains why the Bush administration wants the search data.
The Bush administration on Wednesday asked a federal judge to order Google to turn over a broad range of material from its closely guarded databases.

The move is part of a government effort to revive an Internet child protection law struck down two years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court. The law was meant to punish online pornography sites that make their content accessible to minors. The government contends it needs the Google data to determine how often pornography shows up in online searches.

In court papers filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Justice Department lawyers revealed that Google has refused to comply with a subpoena issued last year for the records, which include a request for 1 million random Web addresses and records of all Google searches from any one-week period.
If Google does turn over the information privacy experts say it could make people not want to use the search engine in the future.
The case worries privacy advocates, given the vast amount of information Google and other search engines know about their users.

"This is exactly the kind of case that privacy advocates have long feared," said Ray Everett-Church, a South Bay privacy consultant. "The idea that these massive databases are being thrown open to anyone with a court document is the worst-case scenario. If they lose this fight, consumers will think twice about letting Google deep into their lives."
If people think their private searches are being sold or given away it could hurt Google since they are the most popular search provider. A Boing Boing post notes that Yahoo, AOL and MSN have already complied with the government's request.