A Threat to Privacy on The Internet

RED FLAG: The Government Wants Your Searches

A story came out today from the San Jose Mercury News via Techdirt about the government having subpoenaed Google and other Search Engines to turn over a week’s worth of records to see what is being searched for online. This all in the name of a Web fishing trip from US government lawyers trying to make a point about the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) being necessary. The law was struck down in 2004 because of it being too broad, but the courts gave the government another shot at trying to prove their case.

To date, Google has initially refused to comply with the government subpoena; vigorously defending its position. Techdirt has reported that, “Google is defending its decision by saying that it’s both a violation of the privacy of its users and that turning over the data would reveal trade secrets.”

Additionally, the Techdirt report also stated, “It’s now been confirmed that Yahoo, MSN and AOL were all asked and complied, though it appears that some (such as Yahoo) simply gave search terms with no identification information.”

These reports are very troubling for a number of issues. Certainly the first of which is Internet privacy concerns. The other major issue which quite frankly is a potential for more problems is the ease at which the other search engines have complied with the subpoena. It appears as though there was very little opposition given by Yahoo, MSN, and AOL. If this is true, then this is extremely troubling because they are not defending the privacy issues at all. Yahoo, MSN, and AOL should all be making the same bold moves for defending the privacy of their users.

Google has done the right thing in fighting against this government move. While the information that the government wants at the moment is not each individual’s search results, they are attempting to get the details of the totality of the searched for keywords. This all in their Web eFishing trip to try and give the courts the information to pass a law. The government has in essence made a supposition and is trying to use Google, Yahoo, MSN, and AOL to try and prove it.

These steps taken by the government are also very troubling. It seems as thought the government is using its powers to subpoena other companies for information that is not directly related to a problem. After all, none of the search engine companies are directly involved in the legal action.

Nicole Wong, an associate general counsel for Google, said the company will fight the government’s effort “vigorously.”

“Google is not a party to this lawsuit, and the demand for the information is overreaching,” Wong said.

This will certainly be an interesting story to watch.

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