Judge Stiffarms DoJ In Google Case

    March 18, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

What began as a quest for virtually unfettered access to Google’s database of search information by the Department of Justice has ended with a judge’s decision that the DoJ receive 50,000 URLs retrieved with Google’s search engine, and zero queries.

Google wins big in Judge James Ware’s courtroom, the search advertising company announced on its official blog. Instead of carte blanche access to the URLs and queries made by users of the search engine, the Bush administration will have to settle for much less.

Associate general counsel Nicole Wong’s exulted in her Google Blog post:

In addition to excluding search queries from the subpoena, Judge James Ware also required the government to limit its demand for URLs to 50,000. We will fully comply with the judge’s order.

This is a clear victory for our users and for our company, and Judge Ware’s decision regarding search queries is especially important. While privacy was not the most significant legal issue in this case (because the government wasn’t asking for personally identifiable information), privacy was perhaps the most significant to our users.

The government had claimed the information was needed to bolster its case in federal court in Philadelphia. DoJ wants that court to reconsider the constitutionality of the Child Online Protection Act, which was struck down by the Supreme Court as violating the First Amendment.

Search experts had chimed in on the DoJ request, claiming the data requested by the government could be retrieved without prying into search engine databases. However, the DoJ instead chose to go after Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and AOL with subpoenas in August 2005 for that information.

Except for Google, the other companies readily complied with the DoJ requests. All three companies will likely be criticized heavily by their users for that compliance in the wake of the Gonzales v Google decision.


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