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Google's Response to the DoJ Motion

CowboyNeal posted more than 8 years ago | from the fancy-ways-to-say-no dept.

315

neoviky writes "Google Inc. on Friday formally rejected the U.S. Justice Department's subpoena of data from the Web search leader, arguing the demand violated the privacy of users' Web searches and its own trade secrets. Responding to a motion by U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Google also said in a filing in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California the government demand to disclose Web search data was impractical."

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315 comments

Equal treatment? (2, Insightful)

ttimes (534696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749223)

So the government goes after Google- what about others like Microsoft? Or is this The Evil One's plan- the government is their largest contract. Hmmm

Re:Equal treatment? (1)

dc29A (636871) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749230)

IIRC, MS and Yahoo already caved in to the Kremlin^H^H^H^H^HWhite House.

Re:Equal treatment? (3, Informative)

fafaforza (248976) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749311)

Yahoo fought hard the request from RIAA a while ago for identifying information of owners of IPs that they logged on Kazaa. In the end they lost and a court ordered them to provide such information. In this case, the information provided contained no identifying data. Only statystics on searches.

Now, if you put in identifying information on the web search, then that is your own folly. My startup page is on my own domain, which is comprised of my last name. You can be sure that I never pull up any pages from that startup page becase I don't want my domain -- and my last name as a result -- to pop up on various sites' Referrer field.

Re:Equal treatment? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749362)

Identifying information or not, this is clearly a fishing expedition. The stated purpose for this subpoena is a joke, if the DoJ wants to see how easy it is to find porn on google, it can have someone search for "porn" on google. They can get results 1 - 10 of about 134,000,000 for porn in just 0.06 seconds.

No, it's pretty clear to me that the DoJ wants to know what real live people searched for so that they can do something about it. What they are actually looking for and what they are going to do about when they find it is something we'll have to wait and see.

Personally, I hope that Google continues to fight this and GOOG continues to fall as a result. If enough investors are hurt by the Republicans' attacks, their campaign budgets will dry up fast as big business decides the neocons have stabbed them in the back.

Imagine the printouts for that! (1)

Xypheri (605751) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749610)

Maybe google is just stalling till they can get enough paper to print out all the google cashes on porn they have.

Re:Equal treatment? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749239)

From what I heard, M$ and Yahoo both turned over their records without even raising a fuss. Note this is just here hearsay*.

*Any hearsay on /. should be considered a researched, and verified fact. If not, write a wikipedia article on it, then it will be verifiable.

Re:Equal treatment? (1)

luvirini (753157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749281)

microsoft: http://blogs.msdn.com/msnsearch/archive/2006/01/20 /515606.aspx [msdn.com] cannot find the AOL thing in orginal, but the same statement given on several websites for example: http://www.computerworld.co.nz/news.nsf/news/7597E 58808CE8391CC2570FE0026880E [computerworld.co.nz]

Re:Equal treatment? (1)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749669)

Check this quote out:
With this data you:

CAN see how frequently some query terms occurred.
CANNOT look up an IP and see what they queried
CANNOT look for users who queried for both "TERM A" and "TERM B".
So they can't look up by IP, but it leaves the question: Can they associate individual queries to an IP? What about passport account? Email? He mentions they "CANNOT look for users who queried...", so I assume something is there to differentiate users.

If the government finds queries it thinks incriminates people, can they now go back to MSN and subpoena for personal information?

Re:Equal treatment? (2, Informative)

Voltageaav (798022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749287)

MSN and Yahoo both complied. http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060218/wr_nm/google_p rivacy_dc_4 [yahoo.com]

Re:Equal treatment? (1)

publius_jr (808330) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749619)

If we know MSN and Yahoo complied with this type of subpoena, that means the statute in the Patriot Act banning the acknowledgment of the existence of such a subpoena did not apply in this case, most likely because the authority for this order did not fall under the Patriot Act but, instead, some "save the kids," anti-porn cover. Could there be other web-search subpoenas whose authority is granted by the Patriot Act, orders not only with which we would not know who complied, but whose very existence would be unknown by us?

Totally Off Topic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749635)

In the /. bottom of the page cookie:
"After twelve years of therapy my psychiatrist said something that brought tears to my eyes. He said, "No hablo ingles." -- Ronnie Shakes"

What the hell is an 'hablo' ingle [die.net] ? The only reference to hablo that I can find is some Spanish word.

Re:Totally Off Topic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749714)

No hablo ingles is spanish for "I don't speak English".

Re:Totally Off Topic (1)

Chexiepie (852558) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749716)

In Spanish, "no hablo ingles" means "I don't speak English."

This is, of course, presuming that the above comment isn't a joke. I don't know, maybe the parent was scared of using Google to search for the whole phrase?

Re:Equal treatment? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749702)

"The" government went after Microsoft, declaring it a monopoly in 1999 after the lawsuit under Clinton. Then Bush took over the "remedy" phase, and - they're still a monopoly.

When considering [google.com] "selective prosecution" in the American system of "equal protection under the law", keep in mind Abramoff's rule that some casinos are more equal than others [google.com] .

Only way to get it ... Google to volunteer (4, Insightful)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749231)

If Google hasn't done anything wrong ... then they shouldn't have to comply. Good job google.
The only way they should get the data is if Google volunteers to give it.

What's the government thinking anyways? If they just tapped on Microsoft's shoulder I'm sure Bill would hand over all of MSNs search data.

Re:Only way to get it ... Google to volunteer (2, Insightful)

MikeURL (890801) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749303)

Corporations are creations of law. If the government wins in the courts, Google WILL give up this data. Google is not fighting a good fight based purely on morality. If that were the case then they would currently be wiping all their stored data and risking jail time.

Re:Only way to get it ... Google to volunteer (5, Informative)

savorymedia (938523) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749329)

What's the government thinking anyways? If they just tapped on Microsoft's shoulder I'm sure Bill would hand over all of MSNs search data.

Ummm...Bill DID just roll over and send the gov't MSN's search data...as did Yahoo and AOL.
http://www.techweb.com/wire/ebiz/177101984 [techweb.com]

Re:Only way to get it ... Google to volunteer (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749493)

Google has done plenty wrong. It's posing for the camera. All the DoJ has asked for was search results and statistics. Google releases parts of this information to the public every year on thier own for popular search terms.

What makes this different is that Google doesn't want anyone to know is that many people get thier kiddie porn fix by searching with them. The DoJ's query is to discover how accessable child porn is to people using search engines.

Note, that the statistics Google releases on their own accord are modified and censored to omit the most common searches such as "free porn". With Google's reaction to the DoJ, "kiddie porn" may be on this list of omitted results as well.

Google is trying to make this into a privacy issue, but it's more akin to a tax audit. Someone want to look at the books, and Google doesn't want them to see what they are hiding.

Google is doing plenty wrong.

Re:Only way to get it ... Google to volunteer (2, Insightful)

Citizen925 (955529) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749618)

I totally agree with google's answer to the government's request. Ever since the Patriot Act, the government has aquired this belief that the people of America are ready to give up our basic rights. There is even a police chief in Houston that suggested building permits require cameras in apartment buildings, malls, and even *in privately owned homes whose owner calls the police very often. Another story I've recently heard of is that of a person sitting in a library being harassed by a librarian and two police officers for viewing pornographic material. I think that because this person was not calling attention to himself or flaunting his actions that his reading material is not only his own business, but also that his privacy was being seriously invaded and the police were using intimidation tactics to impress their own moral views upon this citizen. They made the matter into a form of public humiliation by bringing out into the open what the person may not have wanted his peers to have known about him or herself. And now, police want an internet search engine, with millions of users, to simply hand over any personal information about these people the government seeks. Does this only sound crazy and fanatical and ominous to myself? I am very worried about the future of America. The question the police chief of Houston put to us was, "If you're not doing anything wrong, why should you worry about it?" To this I reply, we shouldn't have to worry about worrying about it. By this I mean, taking away people's privacy leads to paranoia and people checking their every move. The average citizen doesn't have the detailed knowledge of the laws to know for certain if they're breaking an uncommon one or not. The government could arrest someone wrongfully, easily, because the person won't know if the accusations are or are not against the law. I'm not saying the U.S. would do this, I have a firm belief they would not, presently. But the way things are going privacy on the whole is being attacked on all sides. This bombardment, to me, implies that the government is trying to throw so many balls at us that we're bound to drop a few. I want the officials of America to know that it's people do witness these actions, and if they are unintentional it would do very well for the people's trust in our government if such actions were checked.

Re:Only way to get it ... Google to volunteer (1)

Chabil Ha' (875116) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749704)

If Google hasn't done anything wrong ... then they shouldn't have to comply.

Not entirely true. If the corporation has knowledge or posession of evidence of wrong doing, then they have a moral responsibility to divulge relevent details. On the flip side, however, the governement can't just go on a 'fishing expedition'. The government must present a compelling case based on *probable cause* that wrong doing has occured.

Personnaly, I don't think they're going to get it, and they're just going to make the administration look like a bunch of idiots (if they already havn't).

Here's some more. (4, Informative)

Voltageaav (798022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749237)

An article about it. http://www.internetnews.com/bus-news/article.php/3 578821 [internetnews.com]

Re:Here's some more. (1)

ginotech (816751) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749789)

The motion also reveals the government originally sought from Google an electronic file containing "all URL's that are available to be located through a query on your company's search engine as of July 1, 2005." Wow. They're stupid.

Expect more subpoenas-- (4, Insightful)

luvirini (753157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749247)

The world is going in a direction where a lot of lawsuits and such are really "fishing expeditions" to you create overly broad subpoenas and then hope to find something in the material to back you view.

It's worse (1)

Julian Morrison (5575) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749489)

...this is a government fishing expedition, and it's not even fishing for crime, it's fishing for data from which they suppose they might be able to theorize harm, and legislate a new crime.

In reality, they just want to believe that harm is somehow being done. They aren't after evidence or scientific proof. They're after data that can be munged to confirm their biases and those of their constituents.

For the record: in my own opinion images of sex, even wild and kinky sex, do not harm kids - and probably don't even much interest them except for snigger-value. All this fuss is saying much more about the repressed prurience of the more nutty kind of "cultural conservative" than about any scientific reality.

In Summary (4, Interesting)

pcgamez (40751) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749252)

Google states that the data being requested has no relevance to what the government (specifically, the government-hired researches) wants to prove.

Interestingly, they (the government) could just come around and request more specific data which would be relevant.

Re:In Summary (1, Insightful)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749614)

Maybe there's some hidden legal merit I havn't seen through the /. filter, but the Government's audacity in this situation astonishes me. It seems like they had no legal ground to request this information from search engines, and their following through with a lawsuit when Google saw through their BS is amazing.

I imagine people asking their local photo shop to invade their customer's privacy and give them a few thousand random photos (all for ), then suing when the shop tells them to fuck off.

Oh well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749258)

Nice knowing you, Google.

I know they're evil... (1)

xx_toran_xx (936474) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749262)

1. Reject subpoena 2. 3. Profit $$$

Coming up next... (1)

Funkcikle (630170) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749278)

the government demand to disclose Web search data was impractical

But luckily their upcoming product, GoogleGoogle, will be soon entering a two year beta program and the DoJ is welcome to send an SMS to register their interest in testing it out.

PR Stunt ... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749285)

I am amazed that people do not see Google's action for what it is -- a huge and hugely inexpensive public relations stunt. From a legal standpoint, Google does not have much ground to stand on. Yahoo and Microsoft realized this and that is why they complied. However, from a public relations point of view, it costs Google a small handful of hours of legal time and in return, Google gets featured on Slashdot and the countries newspapers, television and radio outlets, in addition to all over the internet numerous times. In the vast majority of cases, Google will be featured as the do-gooder ("do no evil") standing up to the U.S. Government on the public's behalf meanwhile making its competitors (Yahoo and Microsoft) look bad in the public eye.


In the end, expect Google to comply with the DOJ's request but only after getting all the (almost) free publicity it can from this. I hope that there are some writers of marketing and public relations books paying attention to this stunt because this has got to be one of the best (and least expensive) public relations coups in recent history.

Re:PR Stunt ... (3, Insightful)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749307)

If the information the government wanted was a matter of national security ...
Then yeah, google should hand it over immediately, no questions asked ...
But for pr0n and other irrelevant junk? The government should be
focusing on more important stuff anyways ... MS and Yahoo! are just playing butt kissers in handing it over right away.

Re:PR Stunt ... (4, Insightful)

rainman_bc (735332) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749458)


If the information the government wanted was a matter of national security ...
Then yeah, google should hand it over immediately, no questions asked ...


Yeah, according to the DHS, everything is a matter of national security. They use it as an excuse for just about everything they want to do, without being subject to scrutiny.

Re:PR Stunt ... (1)

MvD_Moscow (738107) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749308)

Well if it's so easy to get free PR, why didn't Yahoo and MS do the same?

Re:PR Stunt ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749367)

This is like saying that because not everybody engages in the same public relations stunt, that there are no public relations stunts.

There are a variety of reasons why Yahoo and Microsoft may not have fought it on public relations grounds. The least of which is that some middle-manager may not have thought that fighting it would put their name in the headlines for untold number of months at little cost. In most companies, the legal department, management, and PR departments are in different divisions if not different buildings --or even companies.

Word of mouth advertising is one of the most effective methods of advertising as any marketing / PR student will attest. This is why even the largest companies are looking for methods to generate word of mouth discussions. This can range from hiring students to go into bars and strike up conversations with people about a product to coming up with a creative commercial that gets everybody to tell their friend about it so that they will download the commercial over the Internet. (Remember the "Trunk Monkey" commercials?)

Yes, there have been plenty of public relations stunts over the years -- some of them largely free. Because their competitors didn't think to do the same thing doesn't mean that they didn't exist.

It doesn't align with their PR strategies... (2, Insightful)

Junta (36770) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749385)

For google, a core part of their PR strategy is 'do no evil', and therefore any opportunity to grandstand in a way that appears to comply with this core promise is gold for Google.

The other sites don't have that as a PR strategy at the moment. Therefore, they would perceive little to no value compared to their costs.

Of course, it does sound good to stand up to the government lately with all the negative trends against privacy going on, but as many have pointed out, google themselves is using the data in ways not that much different from the government plans, so it isn't 100% as good as they like everyone to think...

Think about what exactly? (1)

Serpent Mage (95312) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749461)

Google specifically states that they will use their information for their own internal purposes to improve searches and such. They specifically state that they will not hand out that information to 3rd party. The government is 3rd party.

Everyones complaining about googles hypocracy needs to get off their silly "they are a company now and like all companies have to be selfish and everything they do is public facing deception only". Get real. I'm by no means claiming they are protectors of the smaller people but they have done NOTHING wrong or hypocritical at all. In fact they are holding up their end of the promise they made to the smaller people.

Re:PR Stunt ... (1)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749355)

I have to agree with this 100%.

Compare this from the legal documents;
Google users trust that when they enter a search query into a Google search box, not only will they receive back the most relevant results,

and how they are censoring/omitting results on the request of the government of China.

Somewhere Google knows how this looks at first glance to the average Internet user. "Oh look, they are protecting me from Big Brother! I should trust them!". Alot of companies do this sort of "image-management" and I believe alot of people would too. Google is no different. Be aware.

Re:PR Stunt ... (1)

Robotech_Master (14247) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749421)

And telling users when results have been omitted/censored. Which no other search engine in China does.

And letting their slower-but-uncensored version remain accessible to the Chinese people if they'd rather use that instead.

If people could get past their knee-jerk reverse-Lars-Ulrich "Money BAD!" reaction and consider what Google's actions mean for the Chinese people--folks who might never have realized that their searches were being censored will now have evidence of it staring them right in the face--they might consider that it is, if not an unqualified good thing, at least a step or two closer to the right direction than the Chinese people have been able to use before.

Re:PR Stunt ... (1)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749535)

>And telling users when results have been omitted/censored.

Yes that makes all the differnce in the world.

"These search results may be censored due to local laws, but we can't tell you why because that would be against local laws. It may be people getting run over by tanks or beastiality or pictures of Chairman Mao shaking hands with Elvis. Sorry for the ignorance we are propogating. Oh, and your search queries may be accessable to your local goverment for who knows what purpose. Except in America, where we will fight tooth-and-nail against doing something like this because this will result in a chilling effect on Google's Business and users trust."

Re:PR Stunt ... (1)

Robotech_Master (14247) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749680)

No, as in "This search result has been removed by government request" as opposed to "Here are all the search results you asked for."

Re:PR Stunt ... (1)

AusIV (950840) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749437)

You're exactly right. The number one named brand of 2005 [arstechnica.com] defied the United States Government, risking all sorts of possible reprecussions just to get more recognition. Surely they're not actually trying to uphold their customers' trust... That would be ludicrous.

Re:PR Stunt? (4, Insightful)

mgabrys_sf (951552) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749477)

Some public relations stunt. It caused their net-worth to drop billions this quarter. If I were an investor, I'd say try something else.

Re:PR Stunt? (1, Interesting)

Max Threshold (540114) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749660)

If you were an investor, I'd say shut the hell up. You have no say in the matter. The interests of the employees, the customers, and the community come before yours.

Re:PR Stunt? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749706)

What evidence do you have that this "PR Stunt" was the primary cause of the stock to drop? If you actually knew, you could make a killing on the stock market, as nobody has figured out how to predict the exact causes of why stocks go up and down 100% of the time.

No PR Stunt ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749508)

I'm amazed you bothered to login from Redmond so early today.

This is most clearly a fishing expedition. The government wants bullshit stats their lackey can massage into something resembling evidence that there is pr0n on the interweb and some 17 year old might possibly see a nipple. Meanwhile, their close buddy Microsoft would probably love to have snuggly conversations with the private researchers who would, in all likelihood, discover information about Google's practices and methods.

Google should fight like hell. Since it won't be for one reason, then it must be the other.

Re:PR Stunt ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749542)

Sure it's good PR. And as long as it remains good PR, they will keep doing it. As long as companies see that they can profit by being on "our side" against the government, they will be on our side. We just have to keep supporting companies like this with our $$.
      I always see people complaining that corporations are not really on our side, it's all in self-interest. However, this is the only sure way to get more corporations standing up for us, and that is to make it in their best interest to do so. If companies see that they will lose customers when they violate our expectations of privacy, they will stop doing it (at least openly).

Re:PR Stunt ... (1, Insightful)

defile (1059) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749637)

I am amazed that people do not see Google's action for what it is -- a huge and hugely inexpensive public relations stunt. From a legal standpoint, Google does not have much ground to stand on. Yahoo and Microsoft realized this and that is why they complied. However, from a public relations point of view, it costs Google a small handful of hours of legal time and in return, Google gets featured on Slashdot and the countries newspapers, television and radio outlets, in addition to all over the internet numerous times. In the vast majority of cases, Google will be featured as the do-gooder ("do no evil") standing up to the U.S. Government on the public's behalf meanwhile making its competitors (Yahoo and Microsoft) look bad in the public eye.

I can just imagine Google's competitors being similarly subpeona'd and making the business case to cooperate with the government solely in the hopes that their cooperation forces Google's cooperation. Google's the market leader in search, their competitors have a lot more to gain by giving up their secrets in exchange for Google's secrets. (In fact, if you want to conjecture^2, this may even be why Yahoo! announced recently that they don't want to compete in search.)

Maybe we shouldn't be commending Google for taking a principled stand (which it isn't), but condemning Microsoft and friends for folding so easily. They had every right to refuse, the government is fishing for scientifically useless data from totally unrelated parties.

The judge should be able to see that their competitors complied to gain access to Google's trade secrets, and that their compliance does not validate the government's request, but this may be of no concern to the court.

Re:PR Stunt ... (1)

BCTECH (540338) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749775)

Not to mention when Microsoft and Yahoo complied they stripped out the IP addresses which is fine with the Government as they just want to analyse data where it pertains to unwanted porn coming up on searches.

Now on the other hand Google bends over for the Chinese government and filters content. Google is evil.

The irony is... (4, Interesting)

nwbvt (768631) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749290)

Google has no qualms about showing search related data to the general public.

Back when I was in school several Google recruiters came and during the presentation were more than willing to demonstrate technology that allows you to see what others had been searching.

Re:The irony is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749403)

Human power is contingent on ASYMMETRIC information availability, to allow elite control. If everyone knows some information, it's much less useful as leverage.

I recommend reading David Brin's "The Transparent Society: Will technology force us to choose between privacy and freedom" (or you can try to read Popper, if you want...).

If the government ever tries to investigate me, the first thing I'll do is spew signed contents of my HDD onto the P2P networks (I'm considering a dead-man's handle automated routine on a remote backup server too, though that has its own problems - what if comms are simply interrupted and the server spuriously thinks I've been assassinated?). Then they can't blackmail me with embarrassing info like my preference for clean-shaven ladies or whatever, or doctor the info to frame me.

Re:The irony is... (1)

Hrothgar The Great (36761) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749513)

I think the more important point they made in their argument is that entities which are in NO way involved in legal cases should not be compelled to give up confidential information unless that information is extremely relevant to the case. Read the linked opposition - the point of users' confidentiality is only barely touched upon, whereas several pages are spent on the irrelevancy issue.

I completely agree with Google on this. If the government can request mountains of data from private companies in a case whose STATED purpose is to do a review of the data in order to sort of think about maybe making a law one of these days, then anyone should be able to request that same data for any equally as stupid reason, really. The DOJ shouldn't get special treatment in the courts.

Anonymous stats != Private info (1)

MarkByers (770551) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749526)

... Google ... were more than willing to demonstrate technology that allows you to see what others had been searching.

Google Suggest [google.com] does this. It's a good feature.

There is a huge difference between showing anonymous search statistics in order to aid the end-user and handing over personally identifiable private information to corrupt individuals. Although you could argue that the politicians think they are only doing what is in the public's best interest. I'm glad Google disagrees.

The bad guys computers (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749292)

If the wrong people have their way, all internet connections will have to be licensed. You will have to have a chip embedded in you so they can immediately identify who is doing what on the internet. They will call it trusted computing. The wrong people might not be the government though. It might be Google and Microsoft.

I have a vision of small groups of criminals illegally tapping into the internet in railway yards huddled around steel barrels filled with burning garbage trying to keep warm. Totally distopian.

There should be a limit on the amount of information ANYONE can collect about you; not just the DOJ.

Warning! PDF behind article link! (5, Informative)

Da w00t (1789) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749293)

[this is bad] (yes, I am a member)

Link to the blogger post [blogspot.com] , that's the article, and THEN the pdf [blogspot.com] ! Thank you!

(karmawhoring)

Here's a portion of the introduction:

  • I. INTRODUCTION
    Google users trust that when they enter a search query into a Google search box, not only will they receive back the most relevant results, but that Google will keep private whatever information users communicate absent a compelling reason. The Government's demand for disclosure of untold millions of search queries submitted by Google users and for production of a million Web page addresses or "URLs" randomly selected from Google's proprietary index would undermine that trust, unnecessarily burden Google, and do nothing to further the Government's case in the underlying action.

    Fortunately, the Court has multiple, independent bases to reject the Government's Motion. First, the Government's presentation falls woefully short of demonstrating that the requested information will lead to admissible evidence. This burden is unquestionably the Government's. Rather than meet it, the Government concedes that Google's search queries and URLs are not evidence to be used at trial at all. Instead, the Government says, the data will be "useful" to its purported expert in developing some theory to support the Government's notion that a law banning materials that are harmful to minors on the Internet will be more effective than a technology filter in eliminating it.

Re:Warning! PDF behind article link! (1)

hotdiggitydawg (881316) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749341)

Amen brother. Seriously who posts a link to a (large) PDF on the Slashdot mainpage? I'd expect that from Scuttlemonkey, but CowboyNeal?

That said, from TFPDF:

Perhaps the Government can be forgiven its glib rejection of this point because it is unfamiliar with Google's system architecture. If the Government had that familiarity, it would know that its request will take over a week of engineer time to complete.

Perhaps it may take a week's worth of engineer time to complete once. But Google must serve many millions of queries a day, it wouldn't take almost no time (and minimal hardware cost, comparatively) to cache a million of those each week.

Don't get me wrong, I agree entirely with Google's position, I just think the statement above actually weakens their argument.

Re:Warning! PDF behind article link! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749562)

Wait until this gets to the supreme court with Bush's stooges Alto and Roberts, then we will see who "has has multiple, independent bases to reject the Government's Motion". My money is that the Supreme court will not find them, or will just decline to hear the case if the government wins and Google is forced to appeal up to the Supreme Court. But if Google wins, I'll be the Supreme Court rules in the government's favor.

Good for them (3, Interesting)

NigelJohnstone (242811) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749301)

If Gonzales can simply refuse to answer questions on the legality of domestic searches when he goes before Congress, then Google can refuse spurious warrants from Gonzales. The DOJ doesn't have a right to simply request any information for any reason, and its good that Google are fighting what seems to be a political thing rather than a law enforcement request.

Re:Good for them (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749512)

If Gonzales can simply refuse to answer questions on the legality of domestic searches when he goes before Congress, then Google can refuse spurious warrants from Gonzales.


And another rabid liberal raises his ugly head. Care to make any more incorrect analogies to show your ignorance? There is a huge difference between refusing to answer questions in a confirmation hearing and refusing a legal warrent. Google hasn't refused any warrents, they refused a REQUEST for information, if it had been a warrent they would have turned over the information already.

The point being... (1)

NigelJohnstone (242811) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749794)

The point is, that Gonzales put his loyalty to the President above his duty to answer the legislative branch. When he talks to law students and the press he claims the President is acting legally when he bypasses the FISA, when he talks to Congress he simply refuses to answer the question.

This is the same thing, he's acting as a politician with an agenda rather than as a enforcer of the law. Google are right to refuse to be dragged into what is simply a political lobbying exercise.

DMCA? (3, Funny)

VisceralLogic (911294) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749326)

arguing the demand violated the privacy of users' Web searches and its own trade secrets.

They just need to make it clear that it would be a violation of the DMCA for the DoJ to look at this stuff!

When It's End of Year Zeitgeist... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749338)

... aggregate search results are fun. When it's subpoenaed evidence for a trial, aggregate search results become a violation of privacy. Is that right? Is my grasp of Slashdot-logic improving?

Wrong again... (1)

absurdist (758409) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749380)

When you or I have the power and authority of the DOJ, then come back to me with your incredibly poor analogy. Maybe it'll hold water then.

Laughable (5, Insightful)

fafaforza (248976) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749346)

Or am I just cynikal?

From what I understand, the government asked for web search strings alone. No identifying information at all.

Google claims to be fighting the good fight of protecting their users' data, but how different is the data that the government wants, from the data the Google itself uses to comprise the various lists of most popular searches, the 'popular topics' are in news.google.com, etc? I'm not sure that I'd like my search to be part of such a public display. Is Google's users' data being user improperly in that case, too?

The way I see it is that Google is simply grandstanding. There have been some voices recently that Google has been getting too powerfull and encompassing. They have your email, they know what you search for, and they search your entire hard drive and call back home with their toolbar.

From what I understand, the government asked them for similar search data, with no identifying information, for their own statystical analysis. Is this Google's chance to get back to the good graces of the Internet's geeks, stick to their missions to "do no evil" and retain their image of the anti-corporation, the underdog, and the rebel, while trying to get back to their $150 billion market cap?

Re:Laughable (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749360)

Google doesn't claim to be doing this to protect privacy, that's just what the media's saying. The main reason they're fighting this is because it just takes too much effort.

Google is claiming it is a privacy issue (1)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749382)

From the legal document;

but that Google will keep private whatever information users communicate absent a compelling reason. ...

If Google is forced to compromise its privacy principles ...

The privacy and anonymity of the service are major factors in the attraction of users - that is, users trust Google to do right by their personal information and to provide them with the best search results.

Re:Google is claiming it is a privacy issue (2, Informative)

Urza9814 (883915) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749406)

"These are fearful times for Americans who value freedom from government snooping, and it's a clear measure of that mood that Google's fight with the federal government is persistently taken as a struggle over personal privacy. It is not. In its subpoena for a week's worth of search results, the Justice Department is specifically not asking for the identities of the searchers. In response, Google is specifically not citing its users' privacy as justification for declining to comply. Rather, it is defending its own trade secrets -- proprietary details of the workings of its Web-searching software that it says would be revealed in those endless lists of addresses." http://www.startribune.com/561/story/222963.html [startribune.com]

Re:Google is claiming it is a privacy issue (1)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749456)

You are quoting an editorial from Feb 2, 2006 written by some newspaper not related to Google.

I am quoting the Feb 17, 2006 legal documents from Google's own lawyers and what they intend to argue in court. (Someone else already posted the link to the document)

Think for yourself. Take the effort and look beyond the press-releases and stop believing everything you read just because you its printed.

Re:Google is claiming it is a privacy issue (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749486)

You want a newer article? http://techdirt.com/articles/20060217/1510213_F.sh tml [techdirt.com] Google's a company. They wouldn't be fighting this JUST for privacy. If they cared that much they wouldn't be in China...though I fully support that move, I'm just saying that if they cared about their users that much they either wouldn't have censored in the first place or they'd be listening to all the people protesting.

Re:Google is claiming it is a privacy issue (1)

Hrothgar The Great (36761) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749555)

There is seriously about a paragraph in that document that says things like that, and about 15 pages of "The government doesn't need this data for anything so we don't think we should have to provide it." The privacy thing is just an extra, tacked on argument to try to strengthen their case.

Re:Google is claiming it is a privacy issue (1)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749685)

The first sentence of the introduction address privacy. Look at the second sentence, trust is listed before the burden and usefullness issues.

Does that sound like privacy is an afterthought? If anything, its the technical issues that are the afterthought and is used to strengthen its case.

Re:Laughable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749388)

If you give a mouse a cookie...he'll want everyone's IP address.

Giving in to this request would show that they are willing to do what the government wants, even if it is the wrong thing to do. Maybe the government wants something minor now, but if Google gives in, next time they might have to give up something important. They will be looked at as a friend by the people we don't want considering Google as a friend.

People always say, "Why worry. If you have nothing to hide, it shouldn't be a problem." This is stupid because right now, I may have nothing to hide, but what if they change what needs to be hidden? Everyday, new activities are criminalized, often with secret law. Ignorance of the law is no defense, so if you can't know the law you're screwed. Giving in to requests like this just encourages more information gathering. Maybe you think you have nothing to worry about, but you really do. We'll see when the FBI is knocking on your door asking if you are 183.43.54.101.

Re:Laughable (3, Insightful)

dfsiii (895495) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749503)

Yet, it all comes down to you choosing to use their products and "forfeit" your privacy. Don't use their stuff, don't worry about too much information getting out.

Re:Laughable (1)

Scarblac (122480) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749539)

From what I understand, the government asked for web search strings alone. No identifying information at all.

Just that the information in question isn't particularly sensitive, doesn't mean government gets to force corporations to hand over whatever they ask for.

They don't intend to use this information as evidence in court, so they don't get to subpoena it.

From what I understand, the government asked them for similar search data, with no identifying information, for their own statystical analysis.

From what *I* understand, they didn't ask, they're trying to force them to hand it over. They were subpoenad, now it's the DoJ suing that it should be handed over - even though this has nothing to do with any specific criminal lawsuit, but as you say, just some statistical analysis they want to do. It's completely ridiculous.

Re:Laughable (4, Insightful)

amishdisco (705368) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749617)

How much disconnect is there between the DoJ finding search strings interpreted by them as criminal activity, and their demanding the IP addresses that made them? And why do so many people still trust the intentions of our government?

Re:Laughable (2, Insightful)

Z0mb1eman (629653) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749798)

But why SHOULD they turn this data over? It's not connected to a criminal, or even civil, case. It's not even connected to "homeland security". The government is just asking for this data because they feel like it.

What amazes me the most about this whole affair - and that I haven't really seen addressed - is that this is the kind of data usually provided by studies... that the government would have to fund. I really don't see what basis they have for asking this as free information.

Put it another way - what would happen if the government said "we need to write an operating system that we can control, but that is 100% compatible with all the Windows apps" and requested the Windows source code from Microsoft, instead of writing their own? Again, for free? You know, just because they're the government, and they can ask for it? Besides the fact that Slashdot would implode because it wouldn't know which side to support, I can only assume Microsoft's reaction would be the same.

I don't think anyone really believes this is about "identifying information". Plain and simple, this mountain of data Google is sitting on is a huge part of their value as a company, and giving it away would be equivalent to suicide.

Thoughts (4, Informative)

fimbulvetr (598306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749354)

The funniest part of TFS follows:

"The Government, of course, has told the Court none of this. Instead, it relies on a
talismanic incantation that the standard of relevance is met 'so long as [the request] is reasonably
calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.'"

Talismanic incantion! LOL!

Google's lawyers appear to be a good job refuting the Government's "expert":

"The court should view the Cutts Declaration as standing in strong contrast to the
Government's declarant, Professor Phillip Stark, a statistician who apparently has been hired to
produce a study to support the Government's contentions. The Stark Declaration is vague,
cursory, and uninformed about the operation of Google's search engine. In any event, Professor
Stark's opinion ought to be viewed with some scrutiny. Although positioned as the Government's
expert, he has not yet been qualified as a reliable expert by the Pennsylvania court trying the
underlying case pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 702 or Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms.,
Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). The Pennsylvania court has thus not yet determined whether Professor
Stark's testimony is reliable and of any assistance to the trier of fact."

And I'd have to side with Google on this. I'd venture to guess that most of google's data is completely irrelevant when taken out of context, which Stark is trying to do. If Google does have to turn the data over, I wouldn't be suprised if Stark tried to strongarm his way into learning Google's methods, algorithms, etc.

Another good argument is the following:

"In addition, the Government will not be able to ascertain the content of a Web page from
its descriptive URL name. A Web site's name that suggests potential harmful material may be
benign. Conversely, a URL that seems innocent may actually return pornographic material. The
classic example is www.whitehouse.com, which was a pornography site. Here, the adage "you
can't judge a book by its cover" applies. A URL such as
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/prontline/shows/porn /etc/links.html [pbs.org] contains the word "porn" but
actually provides links to anti-pornography organizations."

who knew (1)

twistedhumor (843234) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749370)

and all these years ive been thinking google was the goverment

Re:who knew (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749457)

Mod this guy insightful... ;)

US Govt being too direct... (1)

PSaltyDS (467134) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749373)

The US Government is being too direct. They have (relatively) good relations with China. If they got the Chinese to demand the information for them, they'd have it by now.

I'll go take a walk now in the hopes of reducing my Google cynicism...

Re:US Govt being too direct... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749446)

Fact is, my friend, we (the world in general) are moving towards a much more Orwellian future than we realize. Sweeping laws aren't the way it's being done; we're being nickel and dimed with cameras, anti-terrorist laws, airport security, sheriffs in Florida who want cameras in your house, etc, etc. Look at the UK. Cameras everywhere. Orwell's England is damn near in place. The DMCA, RIAA, all of the controls that are slowly stragling us.

Now, before my tinfoil hat loses all of its shape and falls off, let me say that despite a good number of you disliking RMS, his ideas on freedom work. Too many people are content to accept DRM from Apple, MS, and others, while rejecting the whole notion of freedom. IF everyone were using something like Tor, but with millions of servers, using free/libre/oss, we might not be headed in this direction nearly as soon. Something to think about.

Go Google! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749408)

This is what Google means by the their "Do No Evil" slogan. Unlike their competitors who caved in to the DOJ request, Google is fighting it. Their competitors (some of which want to pay you to use their service), just gave the data regardless of the justification of the request or the privacy of their users. Microsoft has shown time and time again that they are after the almighty $ and really don't care about things that don't directly impact their bottom line like privacy. Security only became a focus at Microsoft when Linux came along and demonstrated a much more secure platform that threatened Microsoft's server sales.


However, with China, Google has three choices: 1) don't do business in China, 2) fight it and delay business in China, 3) comply but fight it and do a minimalist job at it.


1 and 2 are suicide as China is a VERY large, growing market. Microsoft, Yahoo, etc. would have loved for Google to stay out, hence they could get a very large market share. By doing 3, Google gets press (some good, a lot bad), but they get to play in China. They also are really raising the level of discussion about the censorship in China which is a VERY GOOD THING. Through the press and awareness of the problem, Google is Doing the right thing, unlike Microsoft, Yahoo, etc.

Re:Go Google! (1)

fimbulvetr (598306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749603)

Google should have appeased China by setting up google.ch, and giving in to China on that. This would have helped in a few ways:

#1. Any query to that domain could be filtered.
#2. google.com would have stayed fully open.
#3. It would have been China's burden to block/redirect to google.ch, not google's. Important thing here folks. Put the burden on China and China's ISPs.
#4. Wouldn't have to worry about inaccurately determining an address in china as non-chinese and not filtering results, and the opposite - IPs not in china mistakingly identified as Chinese and subsequently filtered.

Alternatively, China could could work on entering the 18th,19th,20th, or even 21st century. Kind of sad that such a large society has such a patethetic record.

Re:Go Google! (1)

fimbulvetr (598306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749648)

I get one point for a pathetic spelling of pathetic.

Re:Go Google! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749668)

I thought that they did exactly what you suggest.

Re:Go Google! (1)

fimbulvetr (598306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749768)

I think you're right, according to their latest blog post [blogspot.com] :

(1) Launch Google.cn.
We have recently launched Google.cn, a version of Google's search engine that we will filter in response to Chinese laws and regulations on illegal content. This website will supplement, and not replace, the existing, unfiltered Chinese-language interface on Google.com. That website will remain open and unfiltered for Chinese-speaking users worldwide.


My apologies for posting a "suggestion" that happened to be exactly what they were doing. I was under the impression google.ch and google.com were the same thing and Google did their thing based on IP.

Re:Go Google! (1)

Stradenko (160417) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749708)

fwiw, http://google.ch/ [google.ch] is great for people in Switzerland. [iana.org]

Re:Go Google! (2, Funny)

fimbulvetr (598306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749736)

Oh whoops, my bad:)

As an American, I demand credit for understanding there's another country other than my own!

Selective Legality (1)

Rydia (556444) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749410)

Very clever PR on Google's side... they obviously don't really care about law (especially copyright law), but if they can keep their base happy, it'll fool enough investors so they don't get hit with anymore hundred-million dollar loss days.

Re:Selective Legality (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749664)

They aren't ignoring copyright law. They read it differently from the copyright cartels, but then they have vested interest in doing so, as much as Google would have the other way. Currently, the courts are agreeing with Googles interpretation, so it seems more correct to say that the publishers' guild are guilty of ignoring law by asserting righs they do not have.

Don't give up ... (2, Interesting)

chato (74296) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749445)

... or they will ask next for the logs of the Google Web Accelerator [google.com] .

Google can move to CANADA (1)

Moulinneuf (844899) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749474)

Google can move to CANADA

Why is everything evil? (4, Insightful)

Serpent Mage (95312) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749476)

Google specifically states that they will use their information for their own internal purposes to improve searches and such. They specifically state that they will not hand out that information to 3rd party. The government is 3rd party.

Everyones complaining about googles hypocracy needs to get off their silly "they are a company now and like all companies have to be selfish and everything they do is public facing deception only".

I'm by no means claiming they are protectors of the smaller people but they have done NOTHING wrong or hypocritical at all. In fact they are holding up their end of the promise they made to the smaller people.

I Love Google But... (1, Troll)

eno2001 (527078) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749509)

...impracticality is the current administration's way of life. Witness Iraq, the "War on Terra", even the most recent debacle of the Veep's shooting victim apologizing to HIM. Google better play dirty on this one since the current admin and all the neocons play that way.

Why isn't the 4th amendment sufficient? (2, Interesting)

constantnormal (512494) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749553)

Or are they saving that for the eventual appeal to the Supreme Court?

"Article 4. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Is this because Google, being a corporation, is not regarded as a Person? Certainly the "papers and effects" portion would apply to those citizens whose data Google houses.

Or is it being stipulated that the data in Google's keeping has no portion of ownership by the people? Or that "my" Gmail is not really mine, or that "my" search histories have no relation to me, that they would not constitute "my papers"?
Perhaps this is an area into which Google does not wish to venture.

IANAL, but this seems pretty cut & dried to me.

Will someone (who IS a lawyer, please) point out the error in my thinking?

Url? Torrent? (1)

beacher (82033) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749572)

Page 11 (OTFPDF) - "In addition to bot queries, an individual may run hundreds of queries .... Some users have deliberately sent pornography queries to Google in response to the Government's subpoena. One striking example is that of an individual who wrote a feature for the Firefox (Mozilla) web browser that will send random pornoggraphy query to Google"

Can I get a url to this new "feature" please?

Will the argument stand in court? (1)

audi100quattro (869429) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749653)

"arguing the demand violated the privacy of users' Web searches and its own trade secrets."

seriously? I'm kissing the search history feature goodbye... Their only real defense is that there was no crime commited here.

What I don't understand (3, Insightful)

Bodysurf (645983) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749681)

is why the DoJ thinks they have a legal right to access Google's information/logs?

Do they have any credible evidence that Google broke the law? Or that a particular user broke the law? If so, they they should subpoena an individual users records.

It seems to me that the DoJ merely wants Google information because they want to go on a "fishing expedition". Google should have no obligation to assist the DoJ in a "fishing expedition".

The DOJ on "information and belief" have some theories apparently. Just because Google has information that may or may not disprove their theory, no one should compel Google to turn over that information. It's up the the DoJ to get their own information if they believe such. If they don't have their own independent source from which to obtain it, then too bad.

Beat them up for Giving for blocking Info... (1)

wtoconnor (221184) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749687)

Beat them up for Giving for blocking Info for the Chinese but request information when no crime has been committed and that is ok. couldn't they at least time these things so they are far enough appart so that they do appear so stupid?

Every URL in the Google Database (3, Insightful)

grahamdrew (589499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749744)

The response letter said the DOJ wanted a list of every URL that could be returned by a search query in the Google database. I can't even imagine how much data that is. I'd comply with that bit, print it all out, and send the DOJ the bill...

Is it just me or does it sound like the DOJ had no idea what they were actually asking for?

Declarations (1)

Quixote (154172) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749788)

The PDF refers to several declarations (by Cutts, Ramani, etc.). Any links to those?
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