March 14, 2006 10:44 AM PST

Judge to help feds against Google

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ACLU attorney Aden Fine told Ware that his organization would "certainly need to know" additional information about how Google's search engine works, in order to rebut the Justice Department study. That information, he said, would include topics such as the number of servers and the number of Web pages indexed.

If Ware follows through with his suggestion that excerpts from Google's search index may be permissible to hand over--but search terms will not be--that would essentially eliminate privacy worries.

Alberto Gonzales v. Google

Court documents reveal that the Justice Department has been pressuring Google for excerpts from its search logs for half a year. Prosecutors hope to use the excerpts to show that filtering software can't protect children online.

Government subpoena and Google's objection (186K pdf)

Motion to require Google to comply (660K pdf)

Declaration of Philip Stark, government statistics expert (1.1M pdf)

Google has cited privacy concerns in court documents and said Tuesday that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, or ECPA, sets strict rules for obtaining access to search terms that the government has not followed.

"A civil subpoena by the government is not one of the methods that ECPA lists" as a permissible mechanism for obtaining search results, said Gidari, a partner in the Seattle office of the Perkins Coie law firm.

Deciding to grant part of the Justice Department's request--effectively splitting the difference--would permit Ware to avoid some of these thorny privacy concerns. It would also avoid the possibility of setting a precedent that could create new hurdles for prosecutors in future criminal investigations.

Ware also questioned whether Justice Department attorneys would actually keep search terms confidential, especially incendiary ones that could prove useful in future criminal or antiterrorism investigations.

"Are you telling me that the government would ignore that and not use it?" Ware asked, offering as an example searches involving people's names coupled with Osama bin Laden.

Search data obtained from Google by the Justice Department is "not shared with anyone else," replied Joel McElvain, an attorney for the Justice Department. He said that would include "federal law enforcement officers."

McElvain also argued that because AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo had willingly complied, it shouldn't be too difficult for Google to do the same. "The other search engines have been able to do this fairly quickly and easily," he said.

CNET conducted a survey last month of the four major search firms. It found that Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL all said they had the ability to turn over a list of search terms, if they were given an Internet address.

But when asked whether they have actually received such a request, only Microsoft answered the question. With the exception of the Justice Department subpoena for search terms without user identities last year, Microsoft said it has "not received either criminal or civil requests related to MSN Search data."

Philip Stark, a professor of statistics at the University of California at Berkeley, has been hired by the Justice Department to create a study showing that filtering software is flawed and COPA is necessary. "The government seeks this information only to perform a study, in the aggregate, of trends in the Internet. No individual user of Google, or of any other search engine, need fear that his or her personal identifying information will be disclosed," the government said in a brief last month.

Ware is no stranger to technology cases. He heard the domain name case in 2001, a spam lawsuit in 1998 and a legal spat between RealNetworks and Microsoft in 2004.

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What's that sound I hear?
Oh, it's the US Constitution being ripped to shreds, that's all... and here I was worried (sarcastic)...

I'm curious as to what that judge looks up on Google, I'm sure he wouldn't mind if that was shred with the rest of the world, now would he?
Posted by MisterFlibble (207 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not to worry...
it's just a GD piece of paper anyway. I really wish people would stop shoving it down the governments throat. After all we don't have rights during war time.

I have a feeling this American Government will be the shortest lived government body in history. I have come to the conclusion that judges are stupid.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Link Flag
What's that sound I hear?
Oh, it's the US Constitution being ripped to shreds, that's all... and here I was worried (sarcastic)...

I'm curious as to what that judge looks up on Google, I'm sure he wouldn't mind if that was shred with the rest of the world, now would he?
Posted by MisterFlibble (207 comments )
Reply Link Flag
do it for the children!
Do it for the children! Same old song-and-dance. Yes, while our children need to be protected from dangerous activities and predators, this is NOT the answer. Curtailing speech only increases curiosity and subversive behaviors that are hidden from the public eye and hence our ability to discuss, monitor, and control them in a common-sense manner with open dialogue and education of our population. Legislation is not the answer.

Another conspicuous example of the Bush cronies and naive, ignorant, hypocritical Christian right to control the rest of us and inflict everyone else with their centuries-old tainted ideology. Get your nose out of my business, you religious zealouts and Republican freaks!
Posted by sdnelson33 (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
New McCarthyism
Porn with anyone under 18 years old is the new Communism. Chasing after "pervs" is the new McCarthyism.

A people who do not remember their history are doomed ...
Posted by Too Old For IT (351 comments )
Link Flag
You're an idiot.
A great many of us "naive, ignorant, hypocritical Christian religious zealouts" don't like this administration or this kind of government intrusion any more than you do. We're perfectly capable of taking care of our own without the government butting into everything. You might want to try to use that feeble mind of yours to think things through before you over generalize like this. You're obviously some sort of radical, left wing, tree hugging, **** liberal democrat. Duh.
Posted by J_Satch (571 comments )
Link Flag
this is befuddling and disturbing
a) the intended use of the data makes no sense. it's just like randomly watching the purchases in some grocery stores and trying to determine what the most popular brand of coffee is. you'll only know the most popular for those random periods at those particular stores! any other conclusions are pure speculation!

b) the data is google's property! google is not accused of a crime and should be under no obligation to release their property. a warrant (not a subpeona) would be needed if this was physical property.

c) this is another example of our government going too far in its attempts to be/replace our mother. how's about focusing on poverty, peace, and jobs instead?
Posted by ramarc (15 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It Pretty Obvious
This isn't all about protecting children that is a cover. Rumor from a friend of mine that works for Google has it that this data will also be used to correlate users to terrorist web sites. But please don't spread that rumor the government may pull a "Rendition" on my butt.
Posted by tryoneon (26 comments )
Link Flag
Anonymous Websurfing
So why doesn't anyone really offer this service and do a multple pass re-write to destroy the data? Is it against the law to destroy these records?
Posted by tryoneon (26 comments )
Link Flag
Upside down
Makes one wonder who did win the cold war.
Posted by Albertv (92 comments )
Link Flag
But wait, I thought we wanted non-activist judges?!
Gee, what's this, the BushCo dictatorship talking outta both sides again? I thought we were riddled with "activist judges" that ruin us with so called frivolous lawsuits.

All you pro-Bush/pro- wartime tax-cut (for the elite) folks, take note ... the very admin you voted for is stealing your rights rights and anyone's and anybody's (e.g. Google) it wants and it will stop at nothing to get it. Wake up!
Posted by angrybulldog (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Get a clue David
You need to get a clue about what makes an activist judge and what doesn't. An activist judge is one that legislates (or, *creates* laws from the bench), which is obviously not their job. I don't know why the government wants to see Google's index. But even if they do, why would Google hide it? According to the story, isn't it a listing of web sites anyway?! Who cares. As long as it doesn't interfere with Google's ability to make money, what's the big deal? I don't think the government is asking them to divulge their search ranking technology.

As for your second comment about the rich paying taxes, you really need to get a clue about who pays taxes in this country and who doesn't. The IRS makes the numbers available, and you should really have a look for yourself. The numbers are here: <a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

Scroll down to the last section, "Total income tax share", and you will see that the top 1% of wage earners pay a little over a third of all taxes (34.27%). The top 5% of wage earners pay over half of all taxes paid (54.36%), the top 10% pay 65.84%, and the top 50% of wage earners pay a whopping 96.54% of all taxes. What does this say? The rich are the ones paying the taxes and the poor aren't. So, if there's to be a tax break, to whom are you going to give the tax break? You sure can't give it to people (the bottom 50% of wage earners -- "the poor") who aren't paying! The top 1% of wage earners are the ones who are due the tax break because they are truly paying their unfair share with over a third of all taxes. But that doesn't jibe with the talking points your left-leaning "leadership" has given you. It sounds as though you're the mind-numbed robot.
Posted by andyengle (74 comments )
Link Flag
Judge James Ware was appointed by Clinton
Judge James Ware was appointed by Clinton not Bush. Before you start flinging accusations, check the facts.

Clintons Supreme Court appointees also thought is was a good idea to permit the government to seize private property so it could be sold to other citizens for development.
Posted by mkupka (14 comments )
Link Flag
But wait, I thought we wanted non-activist judges?!
There you go again, bursting the logic of the "Right".
Posted by Albertv (92 comments )
Link Flag
Total Information Awareness
Why should the DoD invest in vast databases on American citizens when Google, Yahoo and Amazon will do it for us? Big Brother wants information and having someone else do the work for them is easier than having to do it themselves. Why can't the government run a 'bot to search Google for 50,000 terms? Seems like that might yield more focused results, not inconvenience Google, and not expose Google's private search algorithms. The watered down information that the judge might ask Google to present would probably not help the government's case, but would be the first step in establishing a precedent for subpeonaing large amounts of search data on a regular basis.
Posted by Dataoc1 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Time for Google, Yahoo, etc
.. to locate offshore, taking all those jobs with them.

Yeah, there is the way for Bush to help the economy.
Posted by Too Old For IT (351 comments )
Link Flag
Posted by Stan Johnson (322 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What about the TLD proposal?
I have two questions and comments.
1) What about the parents? Parents should be involved in what their child is doing. No, I'm not talking about standing over them while they are online. Most routers have built-in controls that can control a particular local IP's browsing habits. The parent can set it up to limit what sites are or are not allowed. Parents can review logs of where the child surfed.

2) What about the proposal for adding a new TLD (top level domain) for all porn sites? A ".xxx". That would making any filtering easy. The only problem I see with it is who determines what is pornographic. Traditional porn (sex acts, sex stories, sites that charge for viewing nude pictures or videos, etc.) are almost universally accepted as pornographic. What about medical site that may have nude images? Personally, I feel if it's a publicly accessible site for the purpose displaying nude images, sex stories, etc., it should be listed as a ".xxx" domain.

Lets face it, if a child wants to view naked or semi-naked images, they will always have the lingerie section of the Sears catalog or The National Geographic magazine. Neither of which is pornographic.
Posted by casecorgis (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Goodbye Privacy
The reason Google got a subpoena was that Google refusd to provide the information the Justice Depatment sought voluntarily. And historically, corporate, institutional and even non-profit America has always resisted government sponsored requests for information, whether of a strctly business nature, or of records related to business' relationships with consumners.
If the information sought would be commercially available, then let the government buy it like everyone else, that's only fair.
But, what we have here is not only intrusive, privacy-demeaning government, we have lazy, expedient-seeking government.
They could do this research themselves, but chose to use a subpoena as an expedient method.
C'mon Justice, get off your lazy duffs and do the work yourselves, or pay for it, as you should.
Posted by bdennis410 (175 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is a Hoax to create sympathy for Google
This story that the US gov is asking Google for data on the people using
Google &#38; Google fighting it is a Hoax. It is the classic mind game.
It is the classic "Good Cop" "Bad Cop" game being played on the people.
It is intended to create sympathy for Google, and to keep Google in daily
news coverage.
But in fact Google is as much a part of the US gov as are CIA, NSA, etc.
Do you think for one second that US gov is spending 100s of Billions of
dollars to control what people say or see worldwide from 1000s of
US bases spread through out the world, that it then would need the
permission of Google to look at its data!
Come on, how naive do they think people are!
Hek under the Patriots act it just takes an order of the right person at the
Justice department to get copies of any data, from library to email
servers to any server, to put active lessoning devices anywhere they
want, etc. etc.
Posted by free_people (66 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is much more than about Google
I hate Corporate America as much as you do (probably *much* more (see my blog, I don't defend Google. No matter what company or corporation would be involved in such a case like this, what the DOJ is doing is a total violation of liberty &#38; democracy. When a govt forces its hand to grab private information on its citizens it is absoulutely wrong.

This case is being cloaked, deceptively, within the context of child pornography, which is not the issue here--it is the American citizen's right to privacy. Our Bill of Rights defends govt intrusion of privacy.

And before anyone complains about what Google did in China, remember--we can't dictate the rules of other governments (as much as we'd like to). You either play by *their* rules or you don't. Much as we Americans like to think, we don't own &#38; rule the world. Of course, the White House would like to have us think otherwise.
Posted by Aquilonious (5 comments )
Link Flag
google is a porno pimp
I agree with your comments about Google being as bad as the CIA. In fact the American government is financing its war by drugging raping and video taping hundreds of thousands of people with animals and selling them on the internet. The Drug Enforcement Agency in 1996 changed the classification of Rohypnol and by doing so they clearly stated that the only use for this drug is rape, only the poor victim has NO IDEA what has happened to them. They sell this garbage on Google (others as well) with complete sanction of the government.

Posted by emeraldgate (53 comments )
Link Flag
And so are you.
Don't believe anyone. Right. Keep stiring that mud which you call insight and soon we all be spying on each other a perfect receipe for a dictatorship in America.
Posted by Albertv (92 comments )
Link Flag
Welcome to the new United Soviet States Of Amerika!
Oh well, a quote from George Washington

"How soon we forget history.....Government is not reason. Government is not eloquence. It is force. And like fire, it is a dangerous servant, and a fearful master.

Looks like the fourth amendment is now ashes in a funeral pyre, and freedom, is now a dated concept!
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
Reply Link Flag
PS the police state is here already , in an unrelated case, cops raided and siezed computer harddrives from a newspaper in Lancaster, pennsylvania under instruction from the State Attorney General!

It seems some judges deem themselves to be above the constitution.

if you follow the link it makes for interesting reading!
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
Link Flag
Where's Jakov Smirnoff When We Need Him?
In Russia people go to Party.
In Amerika Party comes to you.
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Link Flag
One has to question the validity of the study
"Philip Stark, a professor of statistics at the University of California at Berkeley, has been hired by the Justice Department to create a study showing that filtering software is flawed and COPA is necessary."

Can we conclude that regardless of what the DOJ actually find in the search data this study will come out in the DOJ's favor?
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's called building a case.
Rather common to put an expert on the stand who
has a favorable view point. Most benign form
too. The executive branch looks like Martha
Stewart compared to what goes on in a court
Posted by vampares (39 comments )
Link Flag
Lying Judge.
Here's an interesting story about this judge.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Total Information Awareness
So let's see, the TIA is going to save the children from porn on the net.

Why don't we just make the internet not available to children? They can have LAN at their schools, and they can dial into their LAN at school; but any other use of the net by persons under 18 should be illegal.

It will give the little guys something to look forward to... you know... when they grow up...

meantime they can be kids and go out and get some fresh air and exercise.

These words to the wise are from a grandmother, who once had to be a mother to become a grandmother... yes we had a pc in the home... NOT hooked up to the net. We used to take the power cord to work with us to keep the kids off the pc while we were working. When we came home they each got an hour on it....

They're all grown people now with pc's in their homes. And nobody grew up stupid because they couldn't be on the internet at 12.

There is a time and a place for everything. And kids don't belong on the internet. Period. They don't need to have every single thing from the day they are born forward. A little hunger to work for the nice things in life didn't hurt me or mine a bit.

If there were no kids on the internet; there would be no excuse for the government to use TIA to spy on American citizens. We all know it is a political tool and they are practicing totalitarianism. Of course, we can't change the rules now because they have all the keys.

But I am willing to bet the idea of getting vulnerable children off the net would be a hard one to go against politically... and it could solve some problems... taking away just one excuse to spy on us.
Posted by Blulady (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You are definitely right about the gov't. The one thing the gov't and all these other concerned people ignore is it is the parents responsibility to monitor and raise their kids; not the gov't's or any other do good self-righteous organization.
Of course we all know that if the gov't didn't use this as an excuse they would find another one, certain elements don't want people to have free choice, only their choice as they see it!
Posted by dland51 (91 comments )
Link Flag
You are some kind of genius
I think they should do analysis of internet
sites and see how many relate to people under
18. Like how many highschools have useful
information on their websites (not just snow
closings and departmental blurbs). And why
should kids be searching for nefarious content
anyhow? Where are the parents and network
administrators? Show me where the under 18
demographic is a sector that sees the most
influence from the internet or where they
influence the internet the most. They can't
even use credit cards or make legally binding
transactions. Cigarette ads currently focus
more on minors. Farmers are more are more
effected by the internet. And who do you thick
commits the most crimes on the internet?
The US needs to stop playing games and start
getting there priorities together before it
becomes unattractive to run services out of the
Posted by vampares (39 comments )
Link Flag
I Plan To Do A Social Research Project
I'm applying for a Federal grant for this very worthwhile social research project to determine public perceptions of past and current presidents as reflected by Google search results.

Search term: "George Bush" + "idiot"
Results: 3,160,000

Search term: "Bill Clinton" + "idiot"
Results: 1,650,000

Search term: "George Bush" + "fascist"
Results: 1,580,000

Search term: "Bill Clinton" + "fascist"
Results: 634,000

Search term: "George Bush" + "fascist" + "idiot"
Results: 262,000

Search term: "Bill Clinton" + "fascist" + "idiot"
Results: 160,000
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Posted by culturtha (15 comments )
Link Flag
We have a live one here...
You say you want less government, then disagree with that this judge is an activist judge?! Okay... time to take your meds...

The government has expanded to great heights under both this administration and congress.
Posted by MisterFlibble (207 comments )
Reply Link Flag
"Philip Stark, a professor of statistics at the University of California at Berkeley, has been hired by the Justice Department to create a study showing that filtering software is flawed and COPA is necessary."

This is yet another fine example of our tax dollars at work. The governmant has hired someone to prove a conclusion they've already reached...

Posted by J_Satch (571 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yes, I agree. Google &Yahoo are as bad as CIA.
I can tell you that from someone who lives in Europe and seen what disregard US government has for lives of the people, from the US plane that cut the cable on Gondola in Ski area in North of
Italy few years ago and killed like 40 people without anyone going to jail for it, to the unjust &#38; barbaric invasion of Iraq that has killed like 1Million+ people, to kidnapping Italian citizens off Milan to take them to outside Italy, to US bases all over the Italy, that the US government does not need the permission of Google or Yahoo to eavesdrop on our searches, they can have it in a heart beat
and in fact I am sure that Google or Yahoo are as much part of the US government effort to control the world as are bases all over Italy &#38; Europe, etc.

So I as an IT professional and professor of Computer science am urging all my colleagues to find or finance a European based search
engine, just like we created Linux &#38; MySQL here in Europe.
Posted by caudio_roma (57 comments )
Reply Link Flag
facts straight
Perhaps this person needs to do a better job of fact checking before commenting. Check the comment on Linux for one thing! Definitely, creaate your own version of Google, YaHoo, or whatever, but get the facts straight or it will be useless.
Posted by dland51 (91 comments )
Link Flag
See ya!

Posted by J_Satch (571 comments )
Link Flag
You can use AnooX search engine for this
Not sure I agree with all your political comments/fervor.
I try to stay away from Politics.
However in regard to your comment about a similar effort to MySQL &#38; Linux in regard to search engine, one that would allow different countries in Europe to have their own country based search engines in an Open &#38; de-centralized fashion, rather than the closed &#38; centralized model of Google &#38; yahoo, there is already an option, it is AnooX search engine.
You can find details of their Open offering here:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

P.S., I love Rome :)
Posted by Cyrus_K (60 comments )
Link Flag
Oldest Government in the World?
"Our" gov't is the oldest in the world? Has no one heard of Britain?
Posted by Batchain (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Oldest Government in the World?
"Our" gov't is the oldest in the world? Has no one heard of Britain?
Posted by Batchain (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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