Google tells jackbooted white house thugs to f*ck off!!! But Microsoft and Yahoo bend over all tell the feds to shove it in as hard and deep as they want to.
Google clashes with feds on searches
Michael Liedtke Associated Press Jan. 20, 2006 12:00 AM
SAN FRANCISCO - Google Inc. is rebuffing the Bush administration's demand for a peek at what millions of people have been looking up on the Internet's leading search engine, a request that underscores the potential for online databases to become tools for government surveillance.
Mountain View, Calif.-based Google has refused to comply with a White House subpoena first issued last summer, prompting U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales this week to ask a federal judge in San Jose for an order to hand over the requested records.
The government wants a list of all requests entered into Google's search engine during an unspecified single week, a breakdown that could conceivably span tens of millions of queries. In addition, it seeks 1 million randomly selected Web addresses from various Google databases.
In court papers that the San Jose Mercury News reported on after seeing them Wednesday, the Bush administration depicts the information as vital in its effort to restore online child protection laws that have been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Yahoo Inc., which runs the Internet's second-most-used search engine behind Google, confirmed Thursday that it had complied with a similar government subpoena.
Although the government says it isn't seeking any data that ties personal information to search requests, the subpoena still raises serious privacy concerns, experts said. Those worries have been magnified by recent revelations that the White House authorized eavesdropping on civilian communications after the Sept. 11 attacks without obtaining court approval.
The content of search requests sometimes contain information about the person making the query.
For instance, it's not unusual for search requests to include names, medical profiles or Social Security information, said Pam Dixon, executive director for the World Privacy Forum.
"This is exactly the kind of thing we have been worrying about with search engines for some time," Dixon said. "Google should be commended for fighting this."
Every other search engine served similar subpoenas by the Bush administration has complied so far, according to court documents. The cooperating search engines weren't identified.
Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo stressed that it didn't reveal any personal information. Microsoft Corp. MSN, the No. 3 search engine, declined to say whether it even received a similar subpoena.
"MSN works closely with law enforcement officials worldwide to assist them when requested," the company said in a statement.
As the Internet's dominant search engine, Google has built up a storehouse of information that "makes it a very attractive target for law enforcement," said Chris Hoofnagle, senior counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
The Department of Justice argues that Google's cooperation is essential to simulate how people navigate the Web.
Obtaining the subpoenaed information from Google "would assist the government in its efforts to understand the behavior of current Web users, (and) to estimate how often Web users encounter harmful-to-minors material in the course of their searches," the Justice Department wrote in a brief filed Wednesday
Google, whose motto when it went public in 2004 was "do no evil," contends that submitting to the subpoena would represent a betrayal to its users.