Back in January, the well publicized story came out that Google was fighting the government over a subpoena for information on search data. Of course, the real story here may be much deeper: the fact that the government seems to feel free to randomly subpoena companies for info in cases they have no part in -- and that many of those companies don't have much of a problem giving up the info. Before, it was known that the government had asked for info from Google, Yahoo, AOL and MSN -- but it appears to go much deeper than that. InformationWeek filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see who the government had subpoenaed for this particular case and turned up the fact that the government sent subpoenas to at least 34 companies, including a number of ISPs and security firms. The case in question is the government's defense of the COPA law (Child Online Protection Act), which had been thrown out as unconstitutional. The government is looking for data to back up their position that the law should be allowed, with the key to its argument being that internet filters are not effective in stopping pornography from reaching minors. To back up that statement, it appears they subpoenaed everyone they could think of who might have data to support that position. It also appears that many those firms did, in fact, turn over the data (the fact that only Google's case went to court suggests they were the only ones who seriously resisted). At least Cablevision and Verizon put up some form of protest, objecting to the scope of the requests -- but mostly it looks like they were just annoyed by the amount of work it would involve, not the privacy of their users. What's interesting here isn't that the government might get access to such information -- but that they might get access to such info not as part of a criminal investigation in which the companies were a part, or which the users were a part. It certainly does raise some questions about the privacy of anyone's surfing and searching habits.
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