Friday, January 20, 2006

Battelle on Google's reasons for fighting DOJ

John Battelle has his own view about the reasons Google have decided not to hand over data to the government.

"What's the Big Deal? the Google v. DOJ case? Well, I've argued it's the slippery slope. But reading through the subpoena, it's clear that from where Google stands, there's something else at stake.

Remember this whole goat rodeo (on the size of indexes)? Remember how slippery both Yahoo and Google got when we tried to figure out exactly how many documents were in their indexes? Well, turns out, that's pretty much what the DOJ is trying to do as well. Hence, Google's defense on a "trade secrets" basis.

Apparently, the subpoena originally asked for a lot more than just a million addresses, as reported Thursday. 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 rea 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. Sure, the DOJ might guarantee that the data would not enter the public record, but, once in the DOJ's hands, it's out of Google's control.

So how to fight it? Well, standing up to the DOJ and getting major praise for doing so is a very smart strategy, in my book. As much as I'd love to believe Google is fighting this for heroic reasons, I'd wager that the data has more to do with it."

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