Thursday, March 16, 2006

Judge to order Google to hand data to DOJ

The judge in the case where the Department of Justice has requested that Google hand over vast amounts of data, has indicated that he intends to go along with that request in part.

"The government is requesting a sample of 50,000 Web site addresses in Google's index, instead of the one million it had demanded. And it is asking for just 5,000 search queries, compared with its earlier demand for an entire week of queries, which could amount to billions of search terms.

A Justice Department lawyer said at the hearing that the government would review just 10,000 Web sites and 1,000 search queries out of those turned over. It intends to use the data to measure the effectiveness of software that filters out pornographic Web sites.

"It is my intent to grant some relief to the government," Ware said, "given the narrowing that has taken place with the request and its willingness to compensate Google for whatever burden that imposes."

He said, however, he knew that the request for individual search terms from Google had raised privacy concerns. He appeared to be less troubled about the release of Web site addresses.

He said he was particularly concerned about perceptions by the public that Web searches could be subject to government scrutiny"

Update: Wendy Selzer is feeling watched.

"When a newspaper obtained records of then-Judge Bork's video rentals duringn 1987 hearings on his nomination for the Supreme Court, the public and members of Congress were similarly shocked that these records were so easily available. In response, Congress passed the Video Privacy Protection Act, prohibiting disclosure of video tape rental records without a warrant or court order. Though limited to sale or rental of "prerecorded video cassette tapes or similar audio visual materials," the VPPA stands out as one of our strongest privacy protection laws.

The DOJ's subpoenas for search records should be web searches' "Bork moment." Search engines, and our comfort in using them unobserved, are a key part of the Internet's vitality. If no current law protects us against government Googling our Google records, it's time to draft a law that does."

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