Gonzales Makes Indecent Proposal To Google

    January 20, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

Though privacy has been cited as one reason for Google’s battle against a subpoena from Alberto Gonzales and the Justice Department, the other reason, preserving trade secrets, looks like the reason Google has dug in to resist the request.

Two leading writers looked at the breaking news about Google and the DOJ battling over requests for search information from Google’s databases see a couple of different focal points.

InfoWorld’s ‘Gripe Line’ columnist Ed Foster perceived, as many do, the likelihood compliance with the subpoena opens the door for many more government agencies to drop by Google with subpoenas and portable mass-storage devices and say ‘fill ’em up’:

Well, we each might have our own theories about that, but I believe that protecting children from pornography is just the stalking horse here. Any government that wants to exercise some control over what its citizens can read on the Internet has got to start by exercising some control over Google.

If Google had acceded to the Justice Department’s original demands, imagine what additional requests for information might have resulted once the government got to look over the data. “Oh, yes, it’s true we were primarily interested in pornography, but we’ve noticed patterns that suggest possible terrorist communications …”

What we can all understand, though, is that there is much at stake in this case. In fighting over the constitutionality of COPA, the feds shouldn’t have any more rights to demand information from a non-involved third party like Google than the ACLU does.

Meanwhile, “The Search” author John Battelle saw the ongoing dispute as one Google chose more because of trade secrets than privacy protection:

From the motion the DOJ filed to force Google to comply with the subpoena:

"The subpoena asks Google to produce an electronic file containing '[a]ll URL's that are available to be located through a query on your company's search engine as of July 31 2005."
"all queries that have been entered on your company' search engine between June 1, 2005 and July 31, 2005."

HELLO. You think Google is going to give that over? Me no think so.

This is why Google originally fought the order. The DOJ then narrowed its request to a random sample of one million URLs and agreed to not ask for personally identifying info on the search queries, but it still wants all search queries for a one week period. No way in hell Google would give that up, given the company’s penchant for secrecy.

At issue for the DOJ is the constitutionality of the Child Online Protection Act. The Supreme Court struck it down over First Amendment concerns, the high court gave Justice the opportunity to rewrite the law. Instead, DOJ has returned to federal court in Pennsylvania to defend the Act’s constitutionality.

DOJ claimed it needed search engine data to help bolster its case. While AOL, MSN, and Yahoo have already complied with similar requests, Google’s refusal to do so has prompted the court action against it.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.