Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Do no evil

As readers of this blog probably are already aware, Google has been subpoenaed. The United States government is demanding, in part, that they provide a list of all URLs they index. This is something I’d expect them, or any other search firm, to want to keep secret.
Imagine my surprise when I read this in their response to the subpoena:

Defendant has already received URLs from at least one other major search engine. It is unclear why Defendant believes it needs URLs from Google.

Google goes on to state that they object to providing the information. Inquiring minds, however, want to know which search engine(s) did provide it. If they were forthcoming with that information, perhaps they also provided the other item which the government demanded: every search query from a one-month period.
Update five minutes later: AOL, Yahoo, and MSN did comply, sayeth BoingBoing.

2 comments on "Do no evil"

  • I’m very happy that Google resisted on principle, and wish the other firms had joined them. It’s important to note, however, that the other players have a primary business in content provision. Since this investigation has something to do with COPA (The Bush DoJ having run out of toking cancer victims to lock up), I can see why they might want to cooperate a little in early phases.

    The other search engines disclosed the information after narrowing the government’s original request for two months’ worth of searches to one week’s worth. The week was not specified.
    …Yahoo spokeswoman Mary Osako said. “We did not provide any personal information in response to the Department of Justice’s subpoena. In our opinion, this is not a privacy issue.”
    A Microsoft spokeswoman said the company complied with the request “in a way that ensured we also protected the privacy of our customers. We were able to share aggregated query data … that did not include any personally identifiable information.”
    AOL spokesman Andrew Weinstein said the Time Warner Inc. subsidiary initially rebuffed the Justice Department’s requests and eventually provided “an aggregated and anonymous list of search terms…. What we gave them was something that was extremely limited, didn’t have any privacy implications and is fairly common data.”

    Anyone want to poke around and see who negotiated the “narrowing”?
    COPA requires that all commerical distributors meet a “community standards” standard or else block minors. Enforcement was blocked 2 years ago in a somewhat messy decision based on filtering, changing technology and the Reno v ACLU CDA decision.
    If you are trying to get age verification on all indecent material online, how does the data collected above help you?

  • David Brodbeck says:

    I suspect the government is looking for raw data they can massage to prove the need for such a law. Something like, “X% of all online searches result in pornographic material.”

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