Google Alone In Battle Against Bush

    January 19, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

The story about Department of Justice attorneys filing suit in federal court for access to Google’s databases exploded across the Internet, and it appears they out of the big four search engines resisted prior requests for that information.

“Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely”
Lord Acton, British historian

DOJ wants to return to federal court in Pennsylvania and try to resurrect the Child Online Protection Act, which was previously struck down by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court gave the Bush Administration the opportunity to rewrite the law to make it less infringing on First Amendment rights. Instead, DOJ thinks it can win a battle in the lower court, but needs search engine information to do so.

MSN, AOL, and Yahoo have complied with those requests, Danny Sullivan posted, as did Xeni Jardin at BoingBoing. Sullivan wrote extensively on the issue, cited that personal information wasn’t requested by the government and noted a couple of points about the DOJ action:

Getting a list of all searches in one week definitely would let US federal government dig deep into the long tail of porn searches. But then again, the sheer amount of data would be overwhelming. Do you know every variation of a term someone might use, that you’re going to dig out of the hundreds of millions of searches you’d get?

Moreover, since the data is divorced from user info, you have no idea what searches are being done by children or not. In the end, you’ve asked for a lot of data that’s not really going to help you estimate anything at all.

Greg Yardley blogged that the battle is already lost, and Google’s eventual compliance is a foregone conclusion:

Google will fall into line once it realizes that the government can get equivalent data from other sources and sees how non-compliance affects its lobbying efforts – and once it realizes that this sort of move on the part of the government isn’t unique to the Bush administration’ or even American politics. No government will be able to resist the temptation of such a large pool of aggregated data forever.

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