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Google Refuses Subpoena for Records

US Gov't seeks to validate COPA

   
10:33 pm on Jan 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Here's a version of the story. [news.zdnet.com]

Google, MSN and Yahoo received subpoenas to turn lots of data over to US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales et al. as the US Government prepares to defend the concept that a criminal statute is required to protect children from online 'indecent material', and that filtering software is not as good a solution as a criminal deterrent.

MSN and Yahoo have already moved to turn over the goods:

1) All URLs that are available to be located through a query on your company's search engine as of July 31, 2005

2) All queries that have been entered on your company's search engine between June 1, 2005 and July 31, 2005 inclusive.

Even after negotiating a random sampling of 1M URLs from its index and one week's search queries, Google adamantly refuses to turn over the data.

My question: It seems to me that the government's goal would be met with the data from the two engines that are complying. The gov't claims that they need G's data because G is the market leader, but don't Y and M cover most of the same territory?

I don't think G needs to nor should comply.

11:46 pm on Jan 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

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This issue deserves a great deal of attention. As a webmaster and as a search user, I certainly don't want the government undertaking a fishing expedition like this. It's sad that MSN and Yahoo would so readily turn over private data.

The issue is clearly one of privacy and acquiesence to random government demands is not in keeping with the spirit of freedom of access.

Big Brother is here.

12:06 am on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member bigdave is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Could comeone change the subject line. There are no court orders involved yet. They are fighting against a subpoena, which was issued bu the justice department in a court case. Court orders come from judges, not parties to the case.
12:17 am on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Right, BigDave ... my bad. No court orders, yet, just subpoenas from the Justice Department.

Also, AOL is apparently giving them a bit of a shine ...

12:51 am on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I'd be really nice and give them the several billion urls on paper all 79,000 cases (give or take) of it.

Let them figure it all out ;-).

1:07 am on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member leosghost is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



If they really wanted to be smartass they could then offer to scan the paperwork back into googlebooks...so the govt could search it more easily ( snippets only of course ) .for a discount price ;)

BBC world service are carrying this story while I am typing ..

1:22 am on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member kaled is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



As I said in another thread...

I find it hard to see how any information Google could provide would help the Government in this case. Sounds to me more like the Government is trying to set a legal precedent and is using Child Pornography merely as an excuse.

In any case, it is not Google's job to provide information for law makers, they are merely required to provide information to assist in the conviction, etc. of law breakers. There is a vast gulf between the two.

Kaled.

1:37 am on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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This isn't about child pornography, it's about protecting children from adult material by requiring membership/age verification. It's going to really complicate things for adult sites. Not just the purely pornographic ones, but the humor ones mixed with nude "babe" pictures.
1:43 am on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Kudos to the Big G for taking a stand against the feds. I have no doubt that they will win and I am looking forward to the legal precedent this will set (knock on wood).

I also think it will be interesting to see how Yahoo and the other search engines that willingly bent over for the feds, fare in the mindset of public opinion. They cannot be happy with Google's refusal to cooperate.

1:45 am on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)



>> In any case, it is not Google's job to provide information for law makers

it is if the court says so. Let's face it, soon or later, as long as Google keeps those records, they will be forced to turn them over. It may not be this time, it maybe next time after a terrorist attack or some despicable crime.

How many judges would have said no if the DOJ had asked Google to provide records for WTC /plane related searches after 9/11? Imagine the mood back then and think about it. Even if some truly independent judge had said no, they would've been hammered in all papers, shows and the appeals court would have overturned them. Once that door is opened, every small time Sheriff will join the line to solve his cases.

The only way to stop this is to destroy the records. if Google doesn't have it, they can't be asked to provide it.

1:46 am on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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they want a random sample...hmmm, wouldn't it be cheaper to pay someone to search for porn and record the urls for a few days.

seriously i dont understand how this is a privacy issue.


Prosecutors are requesting a "random sampling" of 1 million Internet addresses accessible through Google's popular search engine, and a random sampling of 1 million search queries submitted to Google over a one-week period.

A random sample of urls and query terms. No mention of IP. Can someone explain what the issue is here?

1:54 am on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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walkman, the court hasn't said so and even then the appeals folks have been known to take a very dim view of over reaching demands.

I just love it when reason goes out the door.

1:57 am on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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tomorrow - they may ask search engine to hand over the private data collected by them about users.

the subponea is just the start when big brother has opened up his interest in the data.

i guess computing in general and internet in particular may get bogged down with time due to lack of privacy.

2:11 am on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member leosghost is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



This is just an attempt by the evangelical churches via the government to eventually ( if they get away with this "request" ) say what can and can't be hosted in the US and what can and cant be accessed from the US ..

The anti childpron is just their smoke and mirrors to hide their agenda ..

( the noise is designed to get most people to say "childpron yeah I'm against that" obviously ..and say that the SE's should turn over their records )

Later if they get them they can look for whatever they want in there ..requests for the pages of political parties ..whatever )

Two things strike me ..

One ..the US is the worlds largest producer and consumer of adult material by far ( online or off )..could the economy stand the dent if making it or hosting it or looking at it was "offshored" ;)

Two ..if the search engines didn't keep this stuff for far longer than they needed while they try to figure out yet new ways of monetarizing the data ..no-one could ask for it ..

other things also come to mind ..but they would be political ..;)

2:42 am on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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What gets me about the Govt. wanting to spy on all of us - and they certainly act as if that's what they want to do - is how many people will be involved in spying on roughly 190 million adult Americans? Isn't that a massive waste of time and money?

We need to get rid of anybody who thinks government intrustion is a good idea, and we can start at the top - probably the 50 highest ranking administration officials should be fired (or monitored relentlessly and permanently).

2:42 am on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member kaled is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Insofar as Google is not obstructing the enforcement of current law, only a highly government-biassed judge could rule against Google.

Kaled.

2:49 am on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)



>> walkman, the court hasn't said so and even then the appeals folks have been known to take a very dim view of over reaching demands. I just love it when reason goes out the door.

and I just love when people don't understand hypotheticals and make sweepeing comments such as "the appeals folks have been known to take a very dim view of over reaching demands." Which folks and what over reaching demands? They are so many circuits and all you need is to 2 out of 3 judges to decide. If the rest decline to review their ruling, you're toast.

2:57 am on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member leosghost is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



only a highly government-biassed judge could rule against Google.

Those aren't too hard to find ..they are just a little harder to get accepted when nominated for the supreme court though ..that will doubtless soon be rectificated ;)
3:57 am on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Glad to see Google is fighting the good fight on this one.
5:26 am on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I laughed when I read the original subpoena. It is obvious the Justice Department has no concept of what they were asking for.

Even if Google where to comply, what the goverment is asking will cost a huge sum of money to provide. Who pays for that? It doesn't matter that the expense would certainly be tax deductable. The fact is the cost is coming out of Google's pocket. Now it's not like Google can't afford it but imagine if the Goverment came to your small company asking for data for some defense and expected you to produce it even if it cost you several tens of thousands of dollars.

Ridiculous

Whoever made the smoke screen comment is right on though

6:13 am on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Two ..if the search engines didn't keep this stuff for far longer than they needed while they try to figure out yet new ways of monetarizing the data ..no-one could ask for it ..

If one of those new start-up search engines advertised that they didn't keep the data they might get a lot of business right away.

9:49 am on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Time for a revival of the metasearch engines.
12:09 pm on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member kaled is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Question
Is there any law that states something like "Organisations must provide any and all information to government agencies that ask for it."

Google does not stand accused of law-breaking nor is it witholding evidence that would be of use in a specific prosecution, therefore they are absolutely correct in withholding this information.

If it is true that
1) Yahoo and MSN have already provided this information
2) It is for use in statistical research
then it is certainly true that the government is attempting to set a legal precedent since they clearly have more than enough data to analyse.

Kaled.

4:01 pm on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Walkman, I understand all kinds of things, and I've seen judges go out their way to make certain that their rulings are as appeal proof as possible.

But as for the various different circuits some interesting opposite rulings on similar cases have resulted, so you pegged that part right so that would bring you into the deep pockets range for going to SCOTUS.

I'm afraid however there is nothing hypothetical about these requests.

4:05 pm on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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What's the problem?

There is no privacy in the West anyhow, if you are ashamed of doing something, simply don't do it!

Matt

4:23 pm on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Maybe I missed someone pointing this out, but what affect would this have on other countries? If the US government started to request data from a US based company, but the data caters to the rest of the world, would that not infringe on international privacy laws some how?

Or is this something that is only going to take place with US based information?

4:27 pm on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member leosghost is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Matt Probert ..with all due respect ..I think you have smoke in your eyes or have been blinded by mirrors ;)
4:33 pm on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Well, I'm protesting, sort of. I was experimenting with Yahoo Publisher Network, but I've dropped all YPN advertising from my sites and am sticking with others (i.e. AdSense and the like). If Yahoo calls me up (which I expect they will, based on the recent past), then I will explain why I'm dropping them (namely that they submitted to the government). It won't mean anything, but it makes me feel good :-)

And for the record, I don't think it is simply about COPA. They wanted all searches, and they are looking at data that tells them nothing in regards to the ages of those doing the searches, which was the whole point of the debate to begin with.

5:18 pm on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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And for the record, I don't think it is simply about COPA. They wanted all searches, and they are looking at data that tells them nothing in regards to the ages of those doing the searches, which was the whole point of the debate to begin with.

Good point gendude

5:29 pm on Jan 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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They probably just want good marketing information that they can then "sell" to their lobbyist counterparts.
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