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  • Feds want Google search data.

    Link Here
    Feds after Google data
    By Howard Mintz
    Mercury News

    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.

    The Mountain View-based search and advertising giant opposes releasing the information on a variety of grounds, saying it would violate the privacy rights of its users and reveal company trade secrets, according to court documents.

    Nicole Wong, an associate general counsel for Google, said the company will fight the government's effort ``vigorously.''

    ``Google is not a party to this lawsuit, and the demand for the information is overreaching,'' Wong said.

    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.''

    Everett-Church, who has consulted with Internet companies facing subpoenas, said Google could argue that releasing the information causes undue harm to its users' privacy.

    ``The government can't even claim that it's for national security,'' Everett-Church said. ``They're just using it to get the search engines to do their research for them in a way that compromises the civil liberties of other people.''

    The government argues that it needs the information as it prepares to once again defend the constitutionality of the Child Online Protection Act in a federal court in Pennsylvania. The law was struck down in 2004 because it was too broad and could prevent adults from accessing legal porn sites.

    However, the Supreme Court invited the government to either come up with a less drastic version of the law or go to trial to prove that the statute does not violate the First Amendment and is the only viable way to combat child porn.

    As a result, government lawyers said in court papers they are developing a defense of the 1998 law based on the argument that it is far more effective than software filters in protecting children from porn. To back that claim, the government has subpoenaed search engines to develop a factual record of how often Web users encounter online porn and how Web searches turn up material they say is ``harmful to minors.''

    The government indicated that other, unspecified search engines have agreed to release the information, but not Google.

    ``The production of those materials would be of significant assistance to the government's preparation of its defense of the constitutionality of this important statute,'' government lawyers wrote, noting that Google is the largest search engine.

    Google has the largest share of U.S. Web searches with 46 percent, according to November 2005 figures from Nielsen//NetRatings. Yahoo is second with 23 percent, and MSN third with 11 percent.
    I particularly enjoyed this person's comment to the poll:
    In this case, Google should comply.
    Someone needs to step up to the plate and assist efforts to curb
    this cancer on society. Don't give me this "privacy" excuse when
    there is more at stake. What happened to corporate responsibility to
    society??
    So basically, to curb minors looking at porn, we should violate constitutional rights so the government can regulate their brand of morality.

    EDIT: I found my last snip unfair because this is more geared towards your infamous "Please think of the children" style of person. I have removed it.
    Last edited by TheFeniX; 01-20-2006, 02:19 PM.

  • #2
    Re: Feds want Google search data.

    It's interesting to see all of these broad, ubiquitous surveillance issues cropping up all at once.
    In game handle: Steel Scion
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    • #3
      Re: Feds want Google search data.

      My understanding was that the feds are looking into people who are googling kiddie porn, not kids looking at the naughty. I'd support this subpoena for the former reason but not the latter. Also, the government should restrict the request to include only the relevant searches.

      Still, don't ask, don't get. I don't have a problem with the effort to restrict childrens' access to internet porn but disagree with this broad subpoena.

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      • #4
        Re: Feds want Google search data.

        Originally posted by TheFeniX
        So basically, to curb minors looking at porn, we should violate constitutional rights so the government can regulate their brand of morality.
        To clarify, it's not unconstitutional for Google to release any information that they want to...
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        • #5
          Re: Feds want Google search data.

          Originally posted by CingularDuality
          To clarify, it's not unconstitutional for Google to release any information that they want to...
          More to the point, they are not contractually obligated to keep search records confidential. It is, however, a trust and quality-of-life issue for their customer base. I'm a little disappointed at how easily most companies agree to turn over customer data to the feds (and to other companies).
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          • #6
            Re: Feds want Google search data.

            Originally posted by leejo
            Still, don't ask, don't get. I don't have a problem with the effort to restrict childrens' access to internet porn but disagree with this broad subpoena.
            Therein lies my problem with the issue. People want something to be done about it. Just like Gun Control: I want guns out of the hands of criminals.

            But there's a right way and a wrong way to do that. This is the wrong way to stop minors from accessing pornography.

            And the Bush administration's stance on porn leads me to come to the same conclusion about the anti-gun lobby: they'll mask legislation under a guise in order to achieve their true objective, removal of all of it.

            Originally posted by CingularDuality
            To clarify, it's not unconstitutional for Google to release any information that they want to...
            I should have been more specific: this law was already smacked down by the Supreme Court once. I also find this broad range of information they want akin to going to a library and saying "I want a listing of every book related to X, and the information on who checked them out (they do want IPs)." I disagree with both. And Google does not want to release this information. Forcing them to will assure people (whether these assurances are legitimate or not) that even cursory Internet searches could be tracked by the Feds.

            To me, it's the same as you saying "the phone company can record your phone calls without warrant and give that info to the police if they want." Granted, using Google is not a pay service, but when they own 46% of the online searches, your choices dwindle.

            And from further reading (slahdot), it seems AOL, MSN, and some others have caved to these requests. So basically, what it comes down to is: "the non-issue of kids viewing pornography online leads to the administration looking for more information that they would ever need to combat the problem."

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            • #7
              Re: Feds want Google search data.

              Man I could go for a dose of Soma right about now.
              Beatnik

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              • #8
                Re: Feds want Google search data.

                Originally posted by leejo
                My understanding was that the feds are looking into people who are googling kiddie porn, not kids looking at the naughty.
                There were two recent laws concerning pornography that I know of; this is one. The other, which passed, requires porn site operators to maintain detailed information about the identity and age of the people appearing on the web pages so that the government can verify at random that none of the people in the pics are under 18.

                From what I can tell, this story here is about preventing the kiddies from peeking at the no-no's; a job I say is fit for parents, not the government. Regardless, I can't believe that the government would restrict its research to porn ads, regardless of what they're saying.
                [squadl]
                "I am the prettiest african-american, vietnamese..cong..person." -SugarNCamo

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                • #9
                  Re: Feds want Google search data.

                  Phone companies do keep records of who you call, when, for how long, etc. And those items can also be subpoenaed. Is the information they seek so different? maybe, because it is a search(and the terms you used to do that search), not an actual visit to a web page. Is a search for something illegal itself illegal, rather than the actual visiting of the resulting searched pages? Since Google actually keeps cached pages, and serves them in the searches, if you hit an illegal page, is Google liable for serving you that cached page(as opposed to just giving you an address to get to it)?

                  Their request seems overly broad. Other than that, I don't have a problem with them using the search records.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Feds want Google search data.

                    Won't someone PLEASE think of the children?
                    Peace through fear... since 1947!

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                    • #11
                      Re: Feds want Google search data.

                      1) America does not own the Internet and cannot regulate its content. Most (> 90%) of porn servers are already operated outside of the US.

                      2) Phone records can be subpoenaed when there is reason enough to believe you have been involved in a crime. The government cannot, however, request the phone records of 1 million random people to see if they have committed some crime.

                      3) This is what is known as datamining, something this administration seems to do a lot.

                      4) Who gets to decide what "pornography" is as opposed to gay literature, raunchy jokes, etc. With this administration's track record on sex education, I'd prefer if they leave the teaching of morality to the parents.

                      Porn shows up in Internet searches way too often and it would be great if there was some way to prevent that. Maybe some enterprising parent could develop a kid-friendly search engine that would filter out porn results. That's the American way.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Feds want Google search data.

                        I disagree with the categorizations of "this administration" but agree that this seems like an overly broad subpoena.

                        But why is it so horrible for the government to ask for it? To demand these records on penalty of fines or jail time would be a different matter. But a subpoena isn't a final thing: they quite obviously can be resisted and a judge can determine that the respondant need not comply.

                        A middle ground approach might come out of this. Often, when government pressures business long enough, business develops self-regulatory agencies to improve their processes and get Uncle Same off their backs. This subpoena may well be deemed inappropriate but nonetheless cause some Google exec to wonder what they can do to add value for their customers such that Google isn't the mechanism by which their children find porn.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Feds want Google search data.

                          Originally posted by Bonehead
                          No one said America owned the internet, but our tier one providers DO control what comes in and out of those fat pipes.
                          Yes, they do, but I think something you said later your post about ISPs offering filtering would be the more appropriate solution. If you try to regulate this traffic at the core routers, not only would you need beefier routers, but it would be rather difficult for some to opt-in and some to opt-out of the porn.

                          The porn producers that purposefully target children by creating sites like “dinsey.com and whitehouse.com” are scum, but how is filtering going to help that? Those sites have been closed AFAIK.

                          Originally posted by Bonehead
                          Who's asking for a million phone records?
                          Originally posted by addict
                          Phone companies do keep records of who you call, when, for how long, etc. And those items can also be subpoenaed.
                          Merely pointing out the red herring.


                          Originally posted by Bonehead
                          I have nothing against rauchy jokes nor porn, I have a problem with it, when it's being touted by non-ethical pornsters in questionable ways to our younger generation.
                          Agreed.


                          Originally posted by Bonehead
                          My teaching kids morality has nothing to do with the problem. The problem is the shady porn operators that have no morality that need to be controlled.
                          My point was that I do not want the executive branch determining what is decent and what should not be allowed on the “American Internet”.

                          Originally posted by Bonehead
                          Porn shows up in Internet searches way too often and it would be great if there was some way to prevent that. Maybe some enterprising parent could develop a kid-friendly search engine that would filter out porn results. That's the American way.
                          >>May be the American way, but have you any idea on how ingenious kids are on circumventing client side filters. Go Google it, you'll be surprised. It needs to be filtered on the pipes that feed the net. It's up to the government to MAKE the ISP industry make content filtration a manadatory service option to end users.
                          I run a small ISP, and I DO offer filtering services to my DSL and hosting customers. I think it's MY responsablity to offer filtered content to my customers that want and need it.
                          See? You’re being part of the solution. This goes along the same lines as my “We don’t need smoking bans” argument. If there is a demand for porn-free(as opposed to free-porn) ISPs, enterprising Americans will fill the void. Maybe the solution is to mass advertise the existence of porn-free ISPs and concerned parents would flock to them. Doesn’t AOL block porn? You happen to be one of the lucky Americans that knows more about their computer than their children. For those who aren’t in your shoes, this problem is even more pronounced. I agree with you the only option is to filter the contents before it enters your house. I just believe that this could be achieved by creating a market for the service which would be a lot cheaper on the American taxpayers.

                          BTW Minor point: Why should Google have to foot the bill for this? It’s not like Google would just click a button and this data would magically appear. Someone who probably makes a lot of money would need to collect this data and put it on some sort of media. A report of that size would also probably slow some business processes down while it ran.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Feds want Google search data.

                            I'm surprised no one else had said what I've been thinking. That the entire thing in reality probably has little to do with child pornography.

                            Who can disagree that children shouldn't be exposed to pornography? No one. So they subpoena all the search info and get everything they really want along with it. The surfing habits of basically the entire internet.

                            The pornography industry isn't interested in selling web porn to "minors", what the heck is the US government talking about? It doesn't even make sense, certainly not from a commercial point of view.

                            If you start blocking what some government agency considers "porn", the next thing you know you'll have an internet restricted similarly to the access they have in China.
                            Certainly there is no hunting like the hunting of man and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never really care for anything else thereafter.
                            Ernest Hemingway, "On the Blue Water," Esquire, April 1936

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                            • #15
                              Re: Feds want Google search data.

                              Originally posted by Bonehead
                              May be the American way, but have you any idea on how ingenious kids are on circumventing client side filters. Go Google it, you'll be surprised. It needs to be filtered on the pipes that feed the net. It's up to the government to MAKE the ISP industry make content filtration a manadatory service option to end users.
                              I run a small ISP, and I DO offer filtering services to my DSL and hosting customers. I think it's MY responsablity to offer filtered content to my customers that want and need it.
                              It is possible to do, government needs to get private industry ISP's to get on the bandwagon. They haven't done so voluntarily, force them too. Just like we forced the V-Chip and rating blockers on cable and satellite operators.
                              This thought scares me. It truly scares me that any American is suggesting that we start to emulate China.

                              I'll take my internet without gov't censorship, thank you very much.
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