Google Says 'NO' to US Government Request to Hand Over Search Data

Dennis Faas's picture

When the U.S. Government requested search data from the web giants, Yahoo! and MSN said "yes" and Google said "no," forcing the matter into the courts.

The government's position is that this request would aid in its efforts "to understand the behavior of current web users, to estimate how often web users encounter harmful-to-minors material in the course of their searches, and to measure the effectiveness of filtering in screening that material."

Additionally, the government wants to know what "web sites people find through the use of search engines, to determine the character of those sites, to estimate the prevalence of harmful-to-minors material on those sites, and to measure the effectiveness of filtering software on that harmful to minors material."

Google stated that they do not want to give this info to the government for several reasons: they don't want to identify their users, they don't want to disclose information on how many searches they process per day, and finally, that the request is an "undue" burden on them... which I suppose is legalese for, "too much work we don't want to do."

In response, the government has stated that they don't want to identify users, they just want a random sampling and they would be willing to work with Google on their other requests.

It seems that government wants data to analyze so that they can find ways to protect minors online. This doesn't seem that harmful, but Google is taking a stand that they should not have to turn over their data at the government's whim. I think it's best for them to set their boundaries now, before it's too late.

Is Google the only company sticking up for User Privacy?

Whether a random sampling or not, this could still be seen as an invasion of privacy. However, for a company that scans your emails to display relevant ads, this certainly seems like an odd position to take!

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