Google takes on the Justice Department

In getting ready to defend a controversial porn law in court (the Child Online Protection Act), the Justice Department has demanded that major search engines supply information about searches performed on their engines during June and July 2005. Whenever the government demands this kind of information, it's a little scary -- one has no real way of knowing what kind of information is being turned over, and ultimately how it's going to be used.

Three of the four engines rolled over and gave up their info to the Justice Department, but Google is refusing to comply.'s Declan McCullagh has supplied an excellent FAQ about the whole situation; here's one of the excerpts:

Q: The subpoena came from the Justice Department's civil division. Will the attorneys there share the data with their colleagues at the department's criminal division or the FBI?

No law would appear to prohibit them from doing so. A protective order does say that only Justice Department attorneys "who have a need" for the information may receive it.

If the disclosed search logs show evidence of criminal activity, that language may be vague enough to let prosecutors return with a second subpoena to demand the identification of one or more Internet addresses linked with those search terms. Terror-related searches are another likely area of information-sharing--President Bush likes to talk about how "law enforcement officers should not be denied vital information their own colleagues already have."

There has, however, been no evidence that the Justice Department has or has not done this to date.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has more.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.