Google Subpoena Woes Double

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If Google does not succeed in fending off Gonzalez v Google, the ACLU said it would have to ask for the same information the government requested.

As a party fighting the government in a Pennsylvania court over the constitutionality of the Child Online Protection Act, the ACLU would have no choice but to perform discovery of Google’s inner workings, the organization said in a legal brief filed on Friday.

At issue is the DOJ lawsuit against Google, stemming from Google’s opposition to responding to a federal subpoena requesting information from Google’s search databases. Google contends fulfilling the DOJ request would violate user privacy and expose trade secrets.

Should the US district court in San Jose compel compliance, the ACLU would have to make the same request, given its role in the COPA lawsuit. The ACLU described the kind of information it would have to request:

…how many total URLs Google has in its database, how often Google updates its database, how and where Google crawls the Web to locate URLs for its database, how many different servers those URLs are stored on, where those servers are located, and how many URLs there are within each server.

Similarly, in order to understand the significance of the search queries put into Google, Plaintiffs will need to understand how Google’s search engine functions and produces results based on the input of queries.

The ACLU said it does not have a need or desire to probe Google this way, but will have no choice if the government sides with the DOJ on Gonzalez.

In its own response to the DOJ, Google’s law firm Perkins Coie submitted Google’s 25-page response on Friday, where it called DOJ “uninformed” about how search engines work.

That response contained a number of declarations from Matt Cutts, the well-known Google engineer and likely the most expert person on how the search engine functions. Google claimed providing DOJ with the information it requested would open up its trade secrets to the competition:

An analysis of Google’s query data would reveal proprietary information such as the number of queries that Google can or does process, its capabilities of processing certain lengths and types of queries, its market share in the United States and other countries, and even the demographics of its users.

Competition with Google is fierce. Google’s competitors could use Google’s confidential query data to manipulate their search engines to accommodate Web users and run queries similar to Google’s.

If Google’s competitors were to access this information, they could conform their size and crawling metrics to Google’s, thereby generating search results that mimic Google’s and competing more effectively with Google.

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

Google Subpoena Woes Double
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