Google Surrenders Orkut Data To Brazil

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Google is giving in to an order to share data on some of its Orkut users. The company put up a good fight, but folded as the Brazilian government threatened it with fines and penalties.

Still, company representatives are insisting that this is not a major loss, and that Google wants to protect users’ privacy.

“What they’re asking for is not billions of pages,” Nicole Wong, Google’s associate general counsel, told Ellen Nakashima of The Washington Post. “In most cases, it’s relatively discrete – small and narrow.” Privacy advocates still aren’t pleased with this development, however.

“Suppose the Chinese government sought the identities of people who visited dissident Web sites?” asked David Sobel of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Or the Iranian regime wanted to identify those who posted material critical of Islam?”

The Brazilian government wants the Orkut data to “help identify users accused of taking part in online communities that encourage racism, pedophilia and homophobia.”

It is only “looking for information in specific cases,” according to Nakashima.

She then provided some details. “The Brazilian authorities are particularly interested in Internet protocol addresses with time and date stamps that can help trace a specific user. Registration information Google could provide includes names and e-mail addresses.”

“Orkut pulls objectionable words and pictures from user sites,” Nakashima continued, “but Google stores content it feels could be useful in a lawsuit. Orkut is especially popular in Brazil, which accounts for 75 percent of its 17 million users.”

That’s 12.75 million, in case your math is a little rusty.

An excerpt from the Google Privacy Policy seems relevant at this point. “We have a good faith belief that access, use . . . or disclosure of such information is reasonably necessary to satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request, enforce applicable Terms of Service, including investigation of potential violations thereof, . . . or protect against imminent harm to the rights, property or safety of Google, its users or the public as required or permitted by law.”

Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, seemed to believe Google’s surrender was inevitable.

“From the law enforcement perspective, if the records are in the possession of the business, the business can be compelled to produce them,” he said.

And yet there are still big issues at stake. “It’s almost a defining moment for the industry,” Rotenberg stated. “They need to decide if they want to become a one-stop shop for government prosecutors.”


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Doug is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest eBusiness news.

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