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.
The move is part of a government effort to revive an Internet child protection law struck down two years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court. The law was meant to punish online pornography sites that make their content accessible to minors. The government contends it needs the Google data to determine how often pornography shows up in online searches.
In court papers filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Justice Department lawyers revealed that 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.
The Mountain View-based search and advertising giant opposes releasing the information on a variety of grounds, saying it would violate the privacy rights of its users and reveal company trade secrets, according to court documents.
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.
At some point, someone has to put their foot down. Every day it seems it is something else, there is some other bogeyman out there that requires us to cede more ground to the authorities. During the eighties and early nineties (if I remember correctly), it was crack and drugs in general, and this was used as the reason for rewriting how the government approaches searches and property seizures (see US v. Ross, Maryland v. Wilson, and Wyoming v. Houghton for representative examples- and this is just the tip of the iceberg and does not even begin to cover the full extent of the changes over the past few decades, to include the property seizures that go on every day).
Then came terrorism, which seems to have replaced the War on Drugs as the ultimate opportunity for power grabs by the government. After Oklahoma City, Clinton gave Congress the wish list every prosecutor and federal agency had wanted for years. Thankfully, much of that was rejected by a Republican-led congress who rightly did not trust government with that much power. After 9/11, though, all bets were off, and you know where we are now.
It is important to not forget that child pornography has always been another avenue that the authorities use to tug at our emotional centers to get us to give them more power. Don’t forget the horrible CDA, which thankfully was struck down. No one likes the idea that child porn happens and that there are predators on the internet. But enough is enough, damn it, and thank goodness for google. This as good a fight to pick as any, and I intend to support them.
*** Update ***
More here from Radley Balko.