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January 19, 2006

Google says no to the US Gov.

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This is going to be important. According to Mercury News (and any number of other sources, including John Battelle, Good Morning Silicon Valley, Andy Beal and Search Engine Watch) Google was subpoenaed by the Federal government to turn over one million random searches and accompanying data sampled from all Google searches for one week. The purpose is to discern how much pornography shows up in searches that children do. The aim is to revive a bill targeted to shut down sites that allow minors to access adult content.

Google has refused to comply with the subpoena. The official statement from associate general counsel for Google, Nicole Wong:

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.

Danny has queried the other major search engines and is updating his post as they respond. Thus far MSN and Ask Jeeves have checked in. Ask was not asked for data and provided none. MSN’s statement is unclear but can be read as a tentative yes. Unsurprising, as Microsoft would rather not draw any more government fire than they have to given all their legal woes in the past.

Reasoning for the suit aside, as Danny points out, this is an alarmingly inefficient way of finding out said data and an incredible invasion of privacy. Random searches will not tell you who was doing the searching and we all know how hard it is to determine which keywords people are searching on for a given topic.

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