Feds after Google data

36 comments

Silicon Valley Reporter reports that evil Bush and company want to grab search data to find out how much porn there is on the web:

The Bush administration on Wednesday asked a federal judge to order Google to turn over a broad range of material from its closely guarded databases.

Google intends to fight "vigorously." ...

'Google is not a party to this lawsuit, and the demand for the information is overreaching.'

Danny Sullivan and John Battelle have more.

Comments

"Google has refused to

"Google has refused to comply with a subpoena issued last year for the records, which include a request for 1 million random Web addresses and records of all Google searches from any one-week period."

Searching for pr0n? Yeah right... Bloody hell they aren't, and Google should do whatever it takes to go against them, including moving HQ offshore if that's what it takes.

Ignoring the stupid "Evil

Ignoring the stupid "Evil Bush" comment - this is obviously a silly move by the administration even if they are trying to stop online child porn, as it's a terribly ineffective way to combat it.

Intl. Porn

So what will they do about sites in France, Russia, etc.?

It's an INTERnationalNET, not a USNET.

Idiots.

Easy Invade any countries

Easy Invade any countries that contain Weapons of Ass Destruction

Winston lives...

Orwell would be proud.

Dropping Hints?

Looks like the webprofessor visits some, um, odd websites, esp. after that link to meatspin the other day.

You trying to tell us something?

Hypocrisy

IMO, Google management and those who support their stance vis-a-vis the Bush administration request are showing *classic left-wing hypocrisy* as well as a *profound disrespect for the country* whose laws and freedoms have allowed them to exist in the first place.

1) Hypocrisy - were Google to put at risk the success of its Chinese operations for the sake of the principle of freedom of speech and individual rights, then while I still wouldn't agree with their stance on the Administration's request, I would certainly respect them for having principles they're willing to stand by. Regardless of my own opinion on the Patriot act and the correct balance of U.S. citizen rights vs. need to fight everything from pedophilia to terrorism, I do understand that there are different opinions. That said, however, Google has shown itself hypocritical in this instance. Why? Because at the same time they are willing to rebuff the Bush administration's request to access search data to ferret out pedophilia, they gave in to Chinese govt demands to censure their SERPs. That, my friends, is hypocrisy with a capital 'H'.

2) Profound disrespect for the United States - it's worth pointing out that over 99% of the world's SERPs are being served, ultimately, by U.S.-based search engines, and there are reasons for that. In this blessed country we are free to pursue crazy business ideas, we are free to access any information we want to access, and we are free to do so within the best set of intellectual property protection laws the world has ever seen. Just as importantly, we are free to pursue grand business schemes such as 'organizing the world's information' because our laissez-faire financial system allows investment dollars to freely flow to bright minds and ideas with no concern for history, tenure, age, ethnicity, sexual preference or political persuasion; in a word, we live in the truest meritocracy ever conceived.

Our liberal meritocracy, whose individual rights form the basis for the social contract, however, only exists because Americans have been willing to die for it. From the war of independence to WWII, Vietnam and now Iraq, our fathers, sons, brothers, mothers, sisters and daughters have rightly understood the American ideal of liberty as worth defending at all costs. For very good reasons as well, our social contract has been strong and beneficial enough over these last 230 years to facilitate acknowledgement en masse of periodic (albeit temporary) needs for federal gov't to suspect some individual rights in order to further the common good. Examples:

1. Military drafts - WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam wars all necessitated military drafts. Whether or not all Americans agreed with all wars is immaterial. The majority, however, do agree on one thing - we have an elected gov't who we empower to make decisions in times of war, decisions which public opinion must necessarily *not* be factored into.

2. Internment of Japanese citizens & nationals - it's easy in retrospect to say that 99.99% (perhaps even 100%) of interred Japanese were as loyal as the rest of America, but the perceived threat to America after Pearl Harbor was such that most Americans gladly supported internment.

3. Wiretapping - a federal anti-crime tactic nearly since the days of Alexander Graham Bell, wiretapping is the phone analog to Bush's request for search data, and it has been universally accepted by the vast majority of law-abiding Americans.

With these historical precedents in mind, I find Google profoundly disrespectful of their obligations to participate in the social contract developed here in the U.S. over the last 230 years and defended with millions of lives, *especially* in the context of one arena where Republicans and Democrats would appear to agree - that pedophilia is abhorrent and a crime nearly as horrible as murder.

Argue with Bush's policy's if you will, but bring more to the table in defending Google's actions than distate for the man personally and disagreement with his foreign policy.

-Shorebreak

relax, man :)

Relax, shorebreak :)

as a *profound disrespect for the country* whose laws and freedoms ...

Respectfully, not all of the world's citizens are citizens of the USA, and it is a question of personal opinion if that specific country (as such) deserves respect or not. That's not something I even want to discuss, and it's not really relevant to the thread either.

Still, a lot of the citizens of said country are world-class individuals, most likely including yourself :)

------------------------------------

Anyway, I'll just add this to my post above, for clarification:

This is a typical "trial case" - you bring on something that is as extreme as you can find it (and nobody defends child pr0n here) in order to maximize the likelihood that your case will succeed.

Then, if you're lucky and your case goes through, you start bringing on the less likely ones, as you have now made a precedent case.

Oh please

Shorebreak there is a huge difference between censorship and privacy invasion.

Apples and oranges as the Chinese situation is one of censorship and I'd rather not be able to go to a web site at all than have the goverment know what kind of kink I was using when spanking my monkey.

Huh?

There *is* a huge difference between censorship and privacy invasion for the purposes of fighting pedophilia - that's exactly my point. Privacy invasion in order to fight pedophilia is *a good thing*, and censorship to prop up communism is *a bad thing*. In fact, invasion of privacy presupposes that the government *never* has a right to invade privacy in the first place. To be clear, in no way, shape or form is that the case, regardless of what country we're talking about.

Privacy is not an absolute, never has been, never will be. National security, child welfare, and dozens of other specific scenarios trump privacy all the time.

..

Shorebreak - It's not so much that they are invading your privacy, it is the fact that this is arguably one of the stupidest methods ever concocted to combat child pornography or national security.

Google has absolutely no reason whatsoever to turn over this data. They are a company not owned or run by the government. It is their user data and no one elses. What's next? Unlimited warrantless wiretaps?

Huh Squared

The premise of violating our privacy to save the children when the content in question is borderless is about as idiotic as it gets but considering other things this administration has done it's par for the course. Blocking access to porn by children can be best done using technology as the US govt can't legislate what's outside our borders but could require a blocking service installed at the ISP level.

Nobody said 100% privacy is an absolute but the logic behind the request to violate privacy in this case is 100% idiotic isolationism thinking.

Not buying it

Given that 30%+ of searches are porn-related, I'd say search activity is clearly one of the *smartest* methods ever concocted to combat child porn (and murder, extortion and hopefully terrorism one day). Google had no problem helping police nab murder suspects in this fashion, so why the thinly-veiled anti-Bush uproar over child porn investigation?

I'll tell you why - people who are against Bush and his OVERALL policies (Iraqi war chief among them) are knee-jerking on this issue as if they were somehow related.

-Shorebreak

The premise of violating

The premise of violating our privacy to save the children when the content in question is borderless is about as idiotic as it gets

IMO the borderless content is the real issue here. since when does the US government have the right to ask a private company -- without any sort of warrant or anything -- for personal data of a person not residing in the US and that is not a US citizen? time and time again, the US government, and this administration in particular, abuses authority. this is just another example.

If, as I understand it as a

If, as I understand it as a Non American, all information within government departments is free for inspection based on the Freedom of Information thenI hope the US government get the data, cos I for one would love to take a peek

Read the Child Online Protection Act..

..if you haven't already.

http://www.epic.org/free_speech/censorship/copa.html

This issue is related to protecting children from stumbling on easily viewable pornographic media while surfing the net NOT child pornography or pedophilia. Think of those black plastic wraps that something like Playboy® Magazine has at the news stand.

HUH? Nth Degree

OK, it's NOT ABOUT CHILD PORN!

The law was meant to punish online pornography sites that make their content accessible to minors

BLOCKING technology is your best defense if your intent is to legislate, then require ISPs to provide that technology to parents aka the V-Chip on the TV, and it's so damn simple to implement the government could provide it themselves as it's not rocket science.

Push the whole mess upstream and require the registrar's to give each domain name a rating, just like the movies, which the ISP kid-safe filters can check during initial DNS resolution before a single page is transmitted.

The ISP blocking/filtering technology could easily block access to any site that has the default which is NO-RATING so the entire internet would literatlly have to do nothing and kids would be blocked.

Only the sites that want kids to access their servers, like Disney, would identify their sites as kid friendly and the rest of us would simply do nothing and the little carpet crawlers are locked out by default and we're off the hook.

Then you could deal with the individual porn sites in a logical fashion if they had misreprented themselves with deliberate incorrect ratings which would make the intent to distribute to kids very obvious and actionable

Guess what, nobody needs access to Google data to put this plan into action either.

Duh.

Weapons of Ass Destruction

That's why the administration takes the matter so seriously. It's a matter of self preservation.

The biggest one being of course, you guessed it ...

One of the funniest yet truest suggestions I read...

(and sadly I can't recall where)... was that Bush and his cronies should just subpoena the surfing records from congressional computers. They'd get all the pr0n sites they could possibly need.

And yeah, what others said. This is SO not about protecting kids. The bushies could just type in relevant terms (or use Wordtracker or whatnot and other for-pay resources) and find some nasty stuff (along with quite possibly kiddie porn, which any of us feeling humans no doubt do honestly abhor).

This is very transparently an attempt to weaken privacy protections, harrass private enterprise, and extend the bushies' landgrab for private citizens' data. Time and time again, this administration has shown that it has absolutely ZERO regard for civil liberties.

And you know what? Personally, I'm *FAR* more worried about one of my friends ending up tortured in some dark prison cell run by Americans than I am being the victim of foreign terrorists' heinous actions here in the U.S.

This isn't about Google or Yahoo or any other single company. This is about Americans, American consumers, and international users of American products and services getting justifiably scared enough to encourage and initiate change at the highest levels of American government.

And lastly... the next Republicrat I hear arguing about something "to protect the kids"... I wanna puke in their cornflakes. Such disgusting hypocrisy. I'd go on about just how hypocritical this is in the context of true needs for defending the young and helpless, but I'll stop there...

good marketing for Google

To me Google saying screw off when others caved is awesome marketing for them. If the administration gets much more ideological (either this one or a future one) then it may hurt Google's share price because the odds of them eventually getting sued by the government are pretty high, especially as they gain market share, value, data, and tell the government to screw off.

"to protect the kids"

and here I thought putting military recruiters in schools (especially in poor areas) did that...

FYI, I joined the military when I was 17. They got me so young that my mom had to sign a permission slip!

Google Family

Google has Big Daddy so why not Big Brother ;-)

Seriously, caving in would make Google look bad, as it would play right into everyone's fear of them using or being used as conduit for the data. In turn that would make people much less warm and fuzzy about adopting their products that capture and allow them to mine the crap out of everything about everyone.

for the hardliners

just outlaw computers in all homes and schools in the US of A, and let the rest of the world get on with life.

>> The law was meant to

>> The law was meant to punish online pornography sites that make their content accessible to minors

I think that this signals a profound misapprehension about the nature of the internet in general, and the WWW in particular in the minds of US officials.

Since the overriding design features of online technology are openness and the free exchange of information, it is remarkably difficult to prevent anyone with a smidgen of knowledge from accessing any damn content they want.

The situation mirrors an English corner newsagents, where large stocks of, um, "corrupting material" are placed on the top shelves. Even though it is placed out of their easy reach, and it's illegal for them to possess it, sometimes kids gets their filthy hands on the odd jazz mag, and without installing an enormous safe in every corner shop on the island, I fail to see what can be done about it.

I also think Google are totally correct to resist the subpoena. What people search for is irrelevant to the production and accessibility of pr0n, other than very indirectly.... and since Google can't yet tell the age of a user for certain (barring, perhaps, G account users, who have signed in before searching - oh, ever faked sign up details anywhere?), I'm uncertain how this information can possibly help the stated aim.

It feels far more like the US Gov trying to establish a precedent for seizing personal information in one context, in the hope of broadening it out later.

Weapons of Ass Destruction

Weapons of Ass Destruction

That's why the administration takes the matter so seriously. It's a matter of self preservation.

The biggest one being of course, you guessed it ...

What ass destruction?

I'm surprised the US Gov

I'm surprised the US Gov didn't play the terrorim card here.

After all, wasn't it a known "fact" that terrorists were hiding instructions to kill on porn sites not all that long ago?

The terrorist card has been

The terrorist card has been overplayed. It is far easier to use the protect the children card to open up the dialog and then extend it into a full on police state, as Danny suggested.

George Carlin said it best

And what's all this shit about children nowadays? 'Save the children!' 'Help the children!' 'What about the children?!' Well you know what I say? FUCK the children! Fuck 'em! They get entirely too much attention already.

Maybe Google should just send Bush a copy of Carlin's rant on children as their official corporate response - now THAT would be amusing.

Besides, if it wasn't for the porn industry I seriously doubt the internet would be as big as it is today. Just think about the internet in it's infancy populated by hordes of geeks working late nights at their computers with no time to head to the adult book store so porn on the net was a natural progression. Everyone using ecommerce today owes it all to porn as CyberCash was born out of the need to charge geeks to spank their monkey.

So the real question is:

Who let the kids in and why didn't they know any better?

Parents

Are parents simply not responsible for anything anymore? If you have a young kid who is on the Internet unsupervised, you deserve to have him find what he finds. Trust me, a warning page is not stopping a kid.

Amen, thePhenomenal!

And if the government was really interested in helping parents help their kids... then they'd fund (yes, pay for) additional research into personal/home-level filtering technologies that parents could use to set a tone that's appropriate for their household and their children.

Successful parenting: it's about not only having the necessary tools, but having the will to actively parent.

Just use AOL

AOL claims they are already kid safe when you enable that feature and if that turns out to be false just sue them into the ground.

MSN statement

Ken Moss, General Manager, MSN Web Search tells what Microsoft chose to do - Privacy and MSN Search.

Over the summer we were subpoenaed by the DOJ regarding a lawsuit. The subpoena requested that we produce data from our search service. We worked hard to scope the request to something that would be consistent with this principle. The applicable parties to the case received this data, and the parties agreed that the information specific to this case would remain confidential. Specifically, we produced a random sample of pages from our index and some aggregated query logs that listed queries and how often they occurred. Absolutely no personal data was involved.

He gets hammered in the comments, the last sentence of the above quote sticking in the craw of many people.

How Do You Tell?

So how does the government determine KIDS are searching for porn?

- Hot Virgin Teen Teletubbies?
- Mutant Nude Teenage Ninja Turtles?
- Scooby Doo gets Shaggy'd?
- Oscar the Grouch gets trashy with Junk in Her Trunk?

I mean really, what ARE they looking for?

Inquiring Minds Want To Know!

War on Terrorism

I'm kinda surprised the government didn't use the terrorism excuse too. Everyone, especially the invertebrate Congress, starts wetting themselves as soon as you mention terrorism.

Points to Google for resisting the subpoena. Seems like a giant fishing expedition to me and the information will be used to call for regulation of the Internet.

Fudge as usual....

This is a serious topic that affects us all and if its so damn important to the US government they should pass specific laws about the internet rather than relying on fudging general law to fit so we all, including Google know exactly where we stand. If Google test the situation by refusing then so much the better as legal clarification will surely follow. I'm a firm believer in civil liberties and I dont want my habits revealed, not that I'm worried about anything, on the principle that my business is my business. Perhaps the other wimp SE's, who spilled their guts should take note.

There's a pretty good

There's a pretty good article in MarketWatch under John Shinal´s Tech Investor

Can't be done

Anyone really believe they can stop young lads from accessing pr0n on the web?

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