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Justice Dept. Rejects Google's Privacy Concerns 350

Posted by Zonk
from the who-needs-that-kind-of-pressure dept.
Philip K Dickhead writes "The Associated Press is reporting that the Justice Department rejected Google's concerns over a Bush administration demand to examine millions of its users' Internet search requests on privacy grounds. The department claims this will help revive an online child protection law that the Supreme Court has blocked, by proving that Internet filters are not strong enough to prevent children from viewing pornography online. A federal court hearing is scheduled in San Jose, California, March 13th."
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Justice Dept. Rejects Google's Privacy Concerns

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  • War on porn (Score:2, Insightful)

    by October_30th (531777)
    Is this a surprise? The Bush admin is waging a war on porn [huffingtonpost.com] and this is a logical step.
    • No surprise... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Savage-Rabbit (308260)
      Is this a surprise? The Bush admin is waging a war on porn and this is a logical step.

      Logical yes.. but one gets the feeling that this has more to do with getting yet another controversial surveillance law enacted by attatching it to a campaign against child porn. The clever aspect of this tactic is that it is hard to be against this sort of a law because it is probably one of the the best ways to hunt down one of the most revolting but also elusive and dangerous species of pervert out there. On the other h
      • This CPA is designed to prevent children from accessing regular porn, not adults from accessing child porn.

        Still a bad law, but let's keep the facts straight.
        • >This CPA is designed to prevent children from accessing regular porn, not adults from accessing child porn.

          >Still a bad law, but let's keep the facts straight.


          That's not the point I was trying to make, I know what the CPA is supposed to do. I advanced the hypothesis that the GWB Administration might be using the CPA as an excuse to erode privacy barriers to the point where it freely and legally could conduct much more abusive surveillance. TFA even voices similar concerns:

          The case has attracted wid
      • Re:No surprise... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        it is hard to be against this sort of a law because it is probably one of the the best ways to hunt down one of the most revolting but also elusive and dangerous species of pervert out there.

        No. Not really. Catching people who view child porn does nothing to help catch the ones who are actually making child porn. And even they are only a minority of the people who are actually ruining lives by abusing kids.

        If you want to stop 70% of sexual abuse of children, lock up their fathers. To stop another 30%, l
        • This guy has a point.
        • If you want to stop 70% of sexual abuse of children, lock up their fathers. To stop another 30%, lock up their other close relatives too. You can knock off the next 8% by stopping them going to school. The tiny handful actual elusive pedophiles are involved in the remaining 2% of abuse.

          Excellent! You've accounted for all 110% of them!

    • by elrous0 (869638) on Monday February 27, 2006 @10:08AM (#14807818)
      The Bush admin is waging a war on porn

      Stopping porn movies altogether is the only way to keep his daughters from eventually starring in one.

      -Eric

    • Re:War on porn (Score:4, Interesting)

      by typical (886006) on Monday February 27, 2006 @11:03AM (#14808200) Journal
      I'm reminded by Ashcroft (Bush's last Attorney General -- remember him?) covering up the statue "The Spirit of Justice" with curtains so that its one bare breast would be hidden.

      I thought that that was rather nicely symbolic.

      I rather figured at that point that things were probably going to keep going downhill.

      I like to consider the implications of that.

      It means that the British (who have *toplessness* on their television) are all hopeless perverts. Cultured? Certainly not. At least, they certainly don't give a damn about their children. In the eyes of the Bush Administration, that is.

      The British *invented* Victorianism and decided that it was a bad idea long ago, and moved on. We still haven't figured it out. I'm reminded of the Imperial unit system.

      We invaded Afghanistan, and encouraged women to throw off their burkas afterwards. We freed them from their social norms and gave them ours, because ours are clearly best.
  • But... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by keyne9 (567528) on Monday February 27, 2006 @09:20AM (#14807594)
    ...wait, I thought censorship was bad and UnAmerican(TM)?
    • Re:But... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Valdrax (32670) on Monday February 27, 2006 @09:42AM (#14807700)
      ...wait, I thought censorship was bad and UnAmerican(TM)?

      Only if you're some sort of commie liberal! In this post-9/11 world, UnAmerican is anything that criticizes the government, and anything the government does in violation of the Constitution and its amendments is kosher as long as it's to protect Americans from Evil People.

      Really, though, who's surprised at this. Their stated agenda here was to invade privacy to bolster a case for overturning a Supreme Court decision that prevents them from invading privacy... for the children, of course. Considering how much this administration has stacked every single non-partisan agency with as many political operatives as possible, it's no real surprise that the DoJ would rule in its own favor.

      Hell, even without that, it's no surprise that the DoJ would rule in its own favor. They've never been the most objective of agencies.
      • Hell, even without that, it's no surprise that the DoJ would rule in its own favor. They've never been the most objective of agencies.

        I'm assuming that you don't know the function of the DoJ. In the setting of the Court, they are the equivalent of a prosecutor. Outside that setting, the department also has control over federal law enforcement. Not quite the background of an impartial body, huh? But as an extension of the Executive branch, no one should assume that they are impartial.

        Basically, the DoJ d
  • by clevershark (130296) on Monday February 27, 2006 @09:22AM (#14807602) Homepage
    All of you who use Google Desktop might want to uninstall it, just in case the "DoJ" starts going after that data next.
  • by ZombieRoboNinja (905329) on Monday February 27, 2006 @09:26AM (#14807618)
    Can the government really go after Google for aiding Chinese censorship and for NOT aiding US censorship AT THE SAME TIME?
    • by dc29A (636871)
      Oh wait, it is worse [theregister.co.uk]. Let's hope it's not true.
      • That one is a hoax. When you upload a video to Google Video, you get to choose which countries you want to exclude from viewing it (say, for copyright reasons). Whoever uploaded that video of an explosion, supposedly in Iraq, chose to exclude only the US. End of story.
      • It's not true. The person who uploaded the movie has the option to select which countries can/cannot access the movie. For some reason the submitter has chosen not to allow people from the USA watch it.
    • You've only just realised that the government is hypocritical? You must be one of those people that thinks the war in Iraq is about bringing freedom to the Iraqi people...
    • Can the government really go after Google for aiding Chinese censorship and for NOT aiding US censorship AT THE SAME TIME?

      Incomparable. What US wants from Google are sample anonymous records to use in law-making.

      What China requested (and received) from Yahoo! (not Google) was personally identifying information, which lead to several people being jailed. What China wanted (and got) from Google was censorship of its search results [wikipedia.org].

      The only was you can equate the two censorships (so as to be able to sust

      • And despite your eloquent comments, you've missed the point like so many. This is not about child pornography. It is about children accessing pornography. Regular, legal, legitimate, though potentially immoral or distasteful, pornography.

        This is not about child pornography.

        • This is not about child pornography. It is about children accessing pornography.
          Thank you for your correction, but it does not really change my point, does it?

          To credibly accuse US government of hypocrisy one still has to equate US government's attempts to prevent American children from seeing porn with Chinese government's attempts to prevent Chinese citizens from seeing unapproved content.

          • I'm trying to figure out why you feel that is a compelling argument. I have no trouble whatsoever drawing that parallel. Children are citizens too, and I don't see politically subversive blogs being any more or less deserving of free speech than porn.
    • Can the government really go after Google for aiding Chinese censorship and for NOT aiding US censorship AT THE SAME TIME?

      It's called cognitive disonance [wikipedia.org], simply, the ability to keep two contradictory ideas in your head at the same time without causing problems.

    • by C10H14N2 (640033)
      In China, it's about filtering Liberty(tm).
      In the United States, it's about saving the children.

      Don't you believe in Liberty? Don't you want to save the children?

      If enough people said mass suicide was the only way to "save the children," I fear millions would do it, whether a la Logan's Run or that terrible, terrible episode of Stargate. Who cares about details if it's about the kids...

      Honestly...
  • If the USA is not good for Google they're welcome to set up their business in our country.
  • If the supreme court struck down a law, and the government is using its resources to try and bring it back, isn't that illegal?

    So, if I get caught with a couple of sawed-off body parts dissolving in my bathtub, I can just tell the sheriff "No worries, my good man. I'm simply performing research into overturning the murder statute. You can go about your business..." *insert jedi-wave*
    • by acvh (120205)
      "If the supreme court struck down a law, and the government is using its resources to try and bring it back, isn't that illegal?"

      No. That's how things are supposed to work here. The SC is NOT the last word, they are one of three coequal branches. Their decisions can be challenged, overridden, ignored or followed, as the other branches see fit. Lately we have deferred to the Court on just about everything, but that assuredly is not what anyone intended 200 years ago.

      • Not really accurate (Score:3, Interesting)

        by brunes69 (86786)
        The SC *is* the last word when it comes to interpereting the constitution. If the SC rules a law is unconstitutional, the other branches have basically four options - re-write the law so that it is constitutional, give up, wait until the structure of the SC changes enough that they may win a reversal, or amend the constitution.

        The last option, is of course, difficult to pull off. So for the majority of issues you only have the first three options. But none of this says that the government can not continue t
        • by acvh (120205)
          you left out an important option: remove the SC's jurisdiction from the matter at hand.

          The only reason the SC is treated as the last word is because they claimed that right in Marbury v Madison. There is nothing in the constitution about it.

  • by phlegmofdiscontent (459470) on Monday February 27, 2006 @09:37AM (#14807670)
    I saw plenty of nudie pics and porn as a child and I'm pretty well-adjusted as an adult. Yes, seriously. I'm getting pretty sick of government types thinking they can run our lives better than we can.
    • Well let me ask you sir, are you against premarital sex, masturbation, and sexual activities in general except that which is absolutely necessary for reproduction?

      Because if you're not, then you're not "well adjusted" in the eyes of those pushing the war on porn. Even though the Americans in general are prudish by Western standards, this kind of horseshit is mostly being foisted upon us by religious conservatives. Most Americans object to their kids seeing naked people. Most Americans do NOT write let
      • I think we're pretty much in the same boat. I didn't have the Internet when I was growing up, but yeah, I had access to books and skin mags and I was able to watch adult movies. And if premarital, non-reproductive sex (with the supposedly rare female orgasm witnessed nearly all the time) and the occasional wank make me depraved, then I don't want to be "well-adjusted". These days, "well-adjusted" is barely a step above the kind of sexual repression you see in the stereotypical Arab culture.
        • Pretty much agreed. Now I've never realy watched porn (not because I'm prudish or anything, I'm just a very tactile person and don't get turned on by pictures), but I see no justification for preventing children from seeing it.

          (and what is it with that whole "rare" female orgasm thing? I mean rubbing the clitoris gently and firmly is not that hard a concept! I find it quite hard to believe that some people find it as difficult as american popular culture sugests)

          • I mean rubbing the clitoris gently and firmly is not that hard a concept!

            Well, this is somewhat of an oversimplifaction - you obviously lack the experience of a true master :-) Things like the pressure, the rythm and and sensitivity can vary significantly from female to female ... Constant and disciplined training with different partners is the only path to greatness.

            BTW, I am not speaking from experience - I read this on the Internet when I was 8 ...

    • by lheal (86013)
      I saw plenty of nudie pics and porn as a child and I'm pretty well-adjusted as an adult.

      Yeah, me too. Never saw the connection between sicko kiddie porn and being a pervert as an adult. Just a bunch of authoritarian mind control, if you ask me.

      Well, now that the intros are over, can I sleep with your girlfriend? Got a cat? Can I watch it pee?

      • Don't fall for the FUD. The government's actions in this case are to put the responsibility for preventing kids from seeing normal porn between consenting adults onto the porn sellers (even if horny teenagers click "Yes I'm 18!" which of course they will). It does not further legislate against child porn (which is already illegal).
    • *You* believe that you are well adjusted. Hillary and Bush believe you are evil.

      Remember people, looking at porn as a child makes you act like a bitch and an alcoholic cokehead as an adult.
    • I'm getting pretty sick of government types thinking they can run our lives better than we can.
      That doesn't sound like the kind of "well-adjusted" the government is looking for.
  • Ok, so from what I can read all they want is a list of search words - nothing that can track back to any users. Well - I say give it to them. After all, the purpose seems allright "By showing the wide variety of Web sites that people find through search engines, the government hopes to prove Internet filters are not strong enough to prevent children from viewing pornography and other inappropriate material online.". They're right. Internet filters sucks, and if they can throw a court verdict after them, the
  • With all the other problems in the world, I am at a loss as to why this is a top concern for this Administration?

    How about addressing problems related to global warming, poverty, war, and pollution - first and foremost?
    • How about addressing problems related to global warming, poverty, war, and pollution - first and foremost?

      Welcome, you must be new here!
      Please direct your inquiries to the ineffectual opposition parties. We're too busy saving America for Americans here! (..you damn hippie.)
  • by pubjames (468013) on Monday February 27, 2006 @09:42AM (#14807697)
    Has the government really thought this through?

    They have to realise they're setting a precident here.

    Google works in many countries around the world. How is the US government going to react if, say, the EU requests the same data from Google? How about China? Or Iran?

    Are they restricting the data they gather to searches only made by US citizens? Because here in the EU there are pretty strong laws about how companies can use personal data they gather. If the US government forces them to hand over data that pertains to EU citizens, I believe Google will be breaking EU data laws and could be opening themselves up for legal action in the EU.

    Actually, there maybe something that EU citizens can do about this. Perhaps EFF Europe should start a campaign...
  • Maybe google should get the DOJ in touch with representative Tom Lantos [slashdot.org] and have a bit of a discussion on the moral implications of complying with legal orders. Just sayin'.
  • No suprise here. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AltGrendel (175092) <ag-slashdot@ex[ ].us ['it0' in gap]> on Monday February 27, 2006 @09:44AM (#14807706) Homepage
    .. the Justice Department rejected Google's concerns over a Bush administration demand to examine millions of its users' Internet search requests on privacy grounds.

    This administration has no concept of the right to privacy, except when it come to them and their friends.

    • No, they're perfectly open--as long as it doesn't relate to an ongoing investigation. And they investigate everything they don't want to talk about.

      -Eric

  • Why can't they just ask Google for a list of keywords that they think might fall in the border areas between obscene and non-obscene results, and then ask for permission to run a simulation on them from the DOJ headquarters? The answer? Power. The DOJ wants to be able to force them to give them something for nothing because they asked for it. Google is being forced to foot the bill for what amounts to an unfunded mandate on a private entity. In olden times, what did black people call being forced to work wi

  • Since When? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheWorkz (866187) on Monday February 27, 2006 @09:47AM (#14807721)
    Since when did the government start caring about our children. I have a simple solution, Don't leave your child on your computer with internet access alone. When they are old enough to browse and be responsible by themselves, they are old enough to look at porn.. BUSH ADMIN, quit wasting resources on BS and fix the real issues at hand.. Like our Deficit, the war, social security and countless other items. Leave the parenting up to us.
  • Data Usefullness (Score:4, Insightful)

    by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Monday February 27, 2006 @09:48AM (#14807730)
    From the article:
    The Justice Department submitted a declaration by Philip B. Stark, a researcher who rejected the privacy concerns, noting that the government specifically requested that Google remove any identifying information from the search requests.

    "The study does not involve examining the queries in more than a cursory way. It involves running a random sample of the queries through the Google search engine and categorizing the results," Stark, a statistics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said.

    So... exactly what information is these representatives of the US Government after? The fact that people search for porn? If they remove any identification of who, and thus what, the person is... what's going to tell them that any given search conducted by a wide-eyed innocent (queue Bush jokes) vs. a consenting adult?
    • That exact same thought crossed my mind, and I've come to the conclusion that this isn't the first round of information "requests." Once the Feds get their hands on this information, they'll shut up for a year or two and then demand search logs with identifying information.
    • So... exactly what information is these representatives of the US Government after? The fact that people search for porn? If they remove any identification of who, and thus what, the person is... what's going to tell them that any given search conducted by a wide-eyed innocent (queue Bush jokes) vs. a consenting adult?

      IANAL, but.

      The government has tried repeatedly to censor the Internet over the past decade. The stated intention is to prevent minors from accessing material deemed harmful to minors,

  • There's one thing I'm wondering. Is the US government about to access all of Google's logs? I so, isn't there a potential legal issue here? I mean, privacy laws could be different from one country to another. If it's illegal in a country (let's say, Privatizhtan) to get that kind of informations, is the US government allowed to look into Google's logs for people who live in this Privatetizhtan?

    Which brings in the "but logs are in the US so it's legal" issue.

  • Parents! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lennart78 (515598) on Monday February 27, 2006 @09:52AM (#14807745)
    Once more, a nice display of reverse logics! If I, as a parent, fail to keep track of what my child is doing and/or looking at, I find someone to blame. And the federal government is backing me up on this one.

    If you have a small child, you, as a parent, should be aware of what kind of content your child has access to. Preview television shows, whitelist certain webpages. If you leave smutty magazines lying around the house, do you blame the editor if a child finds them and looks through it?

    Besides, sex is a natural thing, use education to enable your child to discern right from wrong, instead of keeping the whole subject hidden from him/her until marriage.

    Google has nothing to do with this battle the right-wing christians wage against the porn industry. I'm not saying that pornsites should advertise all over the net, or judge porn altogether, but the federal government is taking a very one-sided approach in this matter. The net has always been free, and it should remain that way. I agree with Googles view on this matter.

  • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Monday February 27, 2006 @09:59AM (#14807778)
    Children need protection from porn, because it would be too bad if they would discover their sexuality on a normal speed which coupled with a good sexual education program can significantly reduce the number of underage pregnancies, on the other hand the administration encourages and is fine with the military recruiting from schools, sharing schoolchildren's data in a huge opt-out database and sending these kids to Iraq or Afghanistan.

    Clearly, porn is the danger here. Think of the kids!
  • As if there's any branch of the government capable of checking executive power anymore.

  • The more I hear about this story, the less it makes sense.

    First of all, "rejects" seems a bit strong - if I'm reading the article correctly, this is just a counterargument, and the matter is still very much in the air - with a hearing on March 13. So far so good.

    What I still don't get is what legal grounds the Justice Department has for filing this subpoena. I really, really, really don't get it. Can someone more familiar with US law or with this case enlighten me?

    "The study does not involve examining th

  • While I agree that there are privacy concerns with Google turning over search information, I'm much more concerned why Google (or anyone) is being forced to turn over anything at all.

    Perhaps I don't fully understand, but isn't this basically a government research effort? They want to see if their assumption is correct to support a law which doesn't currently exist. Correct?

    So why should a private company be compelled to give them data? It's not like this is a search warrant. How is this different fr

  • From TFA:

    The Justice Department submitted a declaration by Philip B. Stark, a researcher who rejected the privacy concerns, noting that the government specifically requested that Google remove any identifying information from the search requests.

    So, what's the problem with the request, really? The government finds out what people are searching for, but not who searches for what.

    I admit though that the article doesn't say whether the information requested could be used to group searches by user, wh
    • "So, what's the problem with the request, really? The government finds out what people are searching for, but not who searches for what."

      Well ... there is no problem with the request pers se. The problem is that once Google availed themselves of the right to say NO , it turned into an attempt at compelling them through a court order. The government can ask me to allow them to have funky anal sex with me, but when I say no, the game is over. If they then try to force me to comply it is attempted
  • This is why you have to resist data collection, regardless of the immediate purpose or perceived benefits. Privacy policies and current legislation are of exactly zero relevance.

    It's why I'm against ID cards in the UK, a scheme which involves a wholly unnecessary central database of biometric information. The current government may give assurances as to its scope and use, but once they have the data there's absolutely nothing to stop them or a future government from extending the scope and selling the data
  • Er, position that is. One week, they say "Oh, don't worry about us being in China; NO filter can eliminate every thing a government doesn't want people to see!" and the next week they find themselves having to admit that what's true "over there" is true "over here": NO filter can eliminate every thing a government doesn't want (their young) people to see.


    Maybe their motto should have been something more like "Don't be careless."

    Now, don't get me wrong: I don't think little Johnny (or Joanie) ou
  • Alberto R. Gonzales is the man who wrote the doctrine saying the tortue is okay.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alberto_Gonzales#War_ on_Terror [wikipedia.org]
  • With the current administration, you can count on anything that infringes upon an individual's right to any sort of privacy to get the green light. The only group that seems to get any privacy in this country any more are those who operate behind closed doors in the Executive Branch.

  • Require the presence of a child's parent or legal guardian any time a child is using a computer with internet access.

    The parent should be required to sit there and, when pr0n pops up on screen, cover the kid's eyes and click the back button.

  • A few days ago, Google's official response [blogspot.com] to the DoJ was posted on the Google Blog.

    According to Google, among the reasons they are refusing to comply is because they are trying "to protect their trade secrets and proprietary systems". They add that complying with the request would be a great technological burden, and possibly create legal risks.

    There is only a single mention of concern for its users' privacy - and that concern is not based any moral grounds: they merely fear any liabilities for viola
  • Think of the Children!!! Think of my poor child!!!

    At the tender age of 15, my child was brutally and without warning assailed by Janet Jackson's breast during the superbowl. This callous and unjustified act of forcefull thrusting the wide world of filthy perverted sex upon my innocent offspring forever changed the way I looked at this issue.

    My child, while on the internet can be exposed to images of the naked breasts, and even obscene images of female genitalia. This is a shocking and tramatic expierience for any child, and I resent having to deal with the fallout from what some people like to call "excercising their rights". There is no excuse for ludity on the internet. None!

    I fully support the governments efforts to protect my child from the shocking plethora of scandel and depravity that exists on the world wide web.

    I support this for my child! She deserves better!
  • Perhaps we should compaign to get another country to request google data.

    Would create some controversy if Google was asked by another country to give data about US citizens (when in fact, the US gov is asking google for non-american data as well).

    Would get a lot more voices involved.
  • by gstoddart (321705) on Monday February 27, 2006 @12:02PM (#14808769) Homepage
    Isn't this really just a fishing expedition? The law they wanted to implement to protect children from porn was struck down by the Supreme Court.

    Now, in an effort to get evidence that what they wanted to do isn't really in violation of the constitution, they want the chance to go on a fishing expedition and get the information they've been told they can't have.

    So now the DOJ is saying they reject the right of Google to not furnish information to allow them to appeal the constitutional ruling which went against them?

    So the DOJ is, in effect, saying that they require the search engines to provide the information they need to appeal a court ruling? (Which if enacted, would be the search engine's responsibility to implement.)

    So, why is Google being forced to help make the government's case, when the SCOTUS has already told them they can't have it?
  • Well, this is NOT at all suprising. Americans are just about willing to give up their first born (pun) for security. One of my favorite political drivel is ".. for the children." For the children we have laws that raise property taxes and take away more individual freedom.

    us constituation states "..people to be secure in their persons... " well... unless its "...for the children."
  • And in other news: Microsoft rejects Europe's monopoly concerns, conservatives reject liberals' pro-choice concerns, and suspected shooter rejects plaintiff's murder concerns.

    I don't know why this article is all over the web recently. Lots of flashy words, but it says absolutely nothing that we didn't already know or expect.
  • by snowwrestler (896305) on Monday February 27, 2006 @01:09PM (#14809469)
    The Justice Dept. is not prosecuting a crime, they are appealing a ruling. And the data from Google would not prove the DOJ's case (it is not direct evidence), but would rather assist in building circumstantial support for the case.

    So why should Google be forced to comply? In such a proceeding it's not clear to me that the DOJ somehow has "greater" rights than any other appellate litigant. If I appeal some ruling someday, can I force Google to give up their trade secrets, on the basis that they might provide circumstantial support for my case?

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