Friday, January 20, 2006

Go, Google!

Let me preface this post by saying I'm not particularly an advocate of pornography. I am an advocate of free speech, however. Consenting adults, and all that--sure. It doesn't bother me except in mostly abstract terms about what it means to objectify and sexualize human beings into. . .errr. . .actually, that's another post altogether.

I am staunchly of the belief that child pornography is evil and indefensible. I suspect most of us are of the same mind.

However, does anyone honestly believe that the government really wants millions of records from Google, from two specific months, for the sake of a court-battle over a law struck down in 2004, as unconsitutional? I don't buy it.

Thomas Claburn, InformationWeek, as posted on CRN:
The government initially asked for two sets of data. First, a file containing all "URLs that are available to be located through a query on your company's search engine as of July 31, 2005." Following discussions with Google, this request was narrowed to "a multi-stage random sample of one million URLs."

Second, the government asked for all "queries that have been entered on your company's search engine between June 1, 2005 and July 31, 2005, inclusive."

The DoJ said in the filing: "The production of those materials would be of significant assistance to the Government's preparation of its defense of the constitutionality of this important statute."

In a statement opposing the DoJ demands, Google associate general counsel Nicole Wong said, "Google is not a party to this lawsuit and their demand for information overreaches. We had lengthy discussions with them to try to resolve this, but were not able to and we intend to resist their motion vigorously."

John Battelle, an online publishing entrepreneur and author of "The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture," expects that the federal government will make more such requests of search engines.

More on the matter, here:

The case worries privacy advocates, given the vast amount of information Google and other search engines know about their users.

"This is exactly the kind of case that privacy advocates have long feared," said Ray Everett-Church, a South Bay privacy consultant. "The idea that these massive databases are being thrown open to anyone with a court document is the worst-case scenario. If they lose this fight, consumers will think twice about letting Google deep into their lives."

Everett-Church, who has consulted with Internet companies facing subpoenas, said Google could argue that releasing the information causes undue harm to its users' privacy.

"The government can't even claim that it's for national security," Everett-Church said. "They're just using it to get the search engines to do their research for them in a way that compromises the civil liberties of other people."

It might behoove us to remember the government--ANY government--exists to serve the needs of the people, and not vice versa. In the wake of the recent NSA wiretapping scandal, this seems indicative of an especially troubling trend.

But then . . . this administration has never seemed all that concerned about the Constitution, anyway.


Anonymous said...

This really bothers me, Mac. A lot! As writers, we do lots of research. So who's gonna decide who's doing what and why? Besides, whose business is it anyway???

I completely understand the criminal aspects of child porn. Those engaging in it should be shot after they've been castrated...but, that is not cause for the rest of us to be spied upon.

Google, hold your ground!!!

Mark Pettus said...

I'm not often in a position to applaud Google, but...

Go Google, Go Google, Go Google.

Shame on Yahoo, Microsoft, and AOL for not standing with Google on this one.

Dawno said...

I'm 100% behind Google and their stance. That said, WTF are they keeping ARCHIVAL databases of all this stuff???

How many years from now will someone be able to figure out what my web searches were in 2005? Just seems dumb.

Stacia said...

I'm 100% behind Google and their stance. That said, WTF are they keeping ARCHIVAL databases of all this stuff???

This is my feeling, too. I think I'm actually more uncomfortable with the idea that Google knows everything I've ever searched for/looked at then I ma about the gov't being curious about it.

Thought neither of them make me especially happy...

Dawno said...

I heard a fascinating conversation on NPR today about this topic. You can listen to it here:

and read an accompanying story:

A White Bear said...

That's awful. People say "child porn" to get stricter government control, as in the Supreme Court case that dealt with this back a few years ago. According to the principles being used then, "child porn" included such films as "Traffic" and Lyne's "Lolita," as they both simulated minors involved in intercourse. A friend of mine's father was the defense attorney in that case. My friend said when her father introduced himself to people, he often got punched in the face "for defending perverts." This administration is all knee-jerk, all the time.

Besides, back a while ago, I helped a friend research a blog project cataloguing sexual fetishes that can't be enacted -- sex with invisible people, sex with cartoon animals, etc. I did lots of prurient Googling.

By the way, I'm Carrie, formerly of Secede from the Union (Flash!topia). I'm finally back on the scene with "Is there no sin in it?" Hello!

Mac said...

Hurray! Welcome back, Carrie--I've missed you.

Suzanne said...

I agree. They use a reason that is heinous to get their foot in the door so they can do whatever they want.

I also agree that Yahoo, Microsoft and the whole Internet community needs to stand with Google on this one.

I don't know if the White House pays attention to our letters and emails or not, but congressmen and senators do. They depend on us for votes much more than the President. A letter is given much more weight than just one letter. I don't know the ratio, but if you write about a TV show or product or anything they believe you are speaking for others.

Thanks for the post, Mac. This is ProsperitySue at AW saying hello!

Mac said...

Hiya, Sue--glad you're here.