Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Google Fights Subpoena

The Department of Justice has asked Google to turn over their records on every search request made in a one week period. Although other services, including AOL and Yahoo, apparently complied with the request, Google is fighting it.

The Attorney-General filed a motion in San Jose on Thursday to enforce a subpoena ordering Google hand over

Google is not a target or a party to any lawsuit or criminal case. The government does not need the information to prosecute a criminal or civil case.

The DOJ says the need the records to defend the Children's Online Protection Act (COPA). COPA is a law enacted in 1998 which would require commercial Web sites with adult content to require visitors to prove that they are over 18 before they can access material that could be deemed "harmful to minors." The issue is not, therefore, child pornography, but minor's access to "harmful materials."

The law was overturned and the case went to the Supreme Court, where it was sent back for a rehearing.

It is unclear at this point how, if at all, the Google records will help the government prove the constitutionality of the COPA law.

There are a few ways Google's records on who is searching for what on the Internet could be tied back directly to a specific person. If you are signed in and a registered user, then Google will track your searches (by way of a cookie). Google can also place a cookie on your hard drive even if you are not a registed user. In addition, as many web users know, visitors can often be tracked by way of their IP address.


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