TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Bush Demanding Google Search Records in Porn Probe

Bush Demanding Google Search Records in Porn Probe

Associated Press News Wire (
Thu, 19 Jan 2006 13:22:04 -0600

The Bush administration, seeking to revive an online pornography law
struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, has subpoenaed Google Inc. for
details on what its users have been looking for through its popular
search engine.

Google has refused to comply with the subpoena, issued last year, for
a broad range of material from its databases, including a request for
1 million random Web addresses and records of all Google searches from
any one-week period, lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department said in
papers filed Wednesday in federal court in San Jose.

Privacy advocates have been increasingly scrutinizing Google's
practices as the company expands its offerings to include e-mail,
driving directions, photo-sharing, instant messaging and Web journals.

Although Google pledges to protect personal information, the company's
privacy policy says it complies with legal and government requests.
Google also has no stated guidelines on how long it keeps data, leading
critics to warn that retention is potentially forever given cheap storage

The government contends it needs the data to determine how often
pornography shows up in online searches as part of an effort to revive
an Internet child protection law that was struck down two years ago by
the U.S. Supreme Court on free-speech grounds, "and we believe many
men are also sneaking in looks at this material at their places of
employment each day; we want that to stop," said a spokesperson for
for the Attorney General's office.

The 1998 Child Online Protection Act would have required adults to use
access codes or other ways of registering before they could see
objectionable material online, and it would have punished violators
with fines up to $50,000 and jail time. The high court ruled that
technology such as filtering software may better protect children.

The matter is now before a federal court in Pennsylvania, and the
government wants the Google data to help argue that the law is more
effective than software in protecting children from porn.

The Mountain View-based company told The San Jose Mercury News that it
opposes releasing the information because it would violate the privacy
rights of its users and would reveal company trade secrets.

Nicole Wong, an associate general counsel for Google, said the company
will fight the government's efforts "vigorously ... it is no one's
business how often consenting adults view this material or think about

"Google is not a party to this lawsuit, and the demand for the
information is overreaching," Wong said. "We are not going to
cooperate voluntarily."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

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