Thursday, January 19, 2006
Feds Want to Know If You're Googling Porn 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
UPDATE: BoingBoing has an update that explains the DoJ search subpoena would not - at this time - request information that would reveal the identities of websearchers, nor their IP address. There, a quote from SearchEngineWatch that makes a valid point:
The government apparently wants to estimate how much pornography shows up in the searches that children do. Here's a thought. If you want to measure how much porn is showing up in searches, try searching for it yourself rather than issuing privacy alarm sounding subpoenas. It would certainly be more accurate.
Who wants your Google search information? Marketers, sure...but now the gubmint wants to see if you've been naughty online. This in from ZDNet News:
Federal prosecutors defending the Child Online Protection Act, a controversial Internet pornography law, are demanding that Google hand over a million [randomly selected] search records. In court documents, the Bush administration asked a federal judge to force Google to comply with a subpoena for the records, which would reveal the search terms of a broad swath of Google's visitors.
PDF versions of the scanned subpoena available at ZDNet. More at Bloomberg.com, TechDirt and CNet. TechDirt offers this telling - and troubling - scoop:
...[I]n the original defense before the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Theodore Olson tried to use the Google results count for "free porn" as proof of why the law was needed. As we noted at the time, the Justices saw through that argument immediately, pointing out that just because there are search results on that term, it doesn't mean they're all pornographic - meaning such numbers don't prove much. However, it appears the government's lawyers have figured out that superficial evidence from Google isn't enough - so they might as well get a lot more detailed info, in the form of one whole week's worth of search results. This is worrisome, in part, because by hiding this behind the "protecting kids from porn" argument will distract from the real issue, and could set a bad precedent. It's also worth noting that the government claims other search engines had no problem at all turning over similar data - which may be the most worrying point.
Well, had Solicitor General Olson Googled farkleberries for the term "free porn," he would have received several hits. Obviously, we bear more watching. ;)