Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Judge Says He'll Make Google Cough Up Some Info For Feds

from the everybody-else-did-it dept

Well that didn't take long at all. While he still hasn't released his official decision, it sounds like the judge hearing the dispute between the Department of Justice and Google over whether or not Google needs to turn over a random sample of searches and URLs has made up his mind. He's going to split the difference and require Google to turn over some data, though it's not entirely clear how much. Apparently, Google's original effort in basically suggesting the government was clueless wasn't particularly convincing. In court, the company took a somewhat different strategy -- apparently focusing on the fact that Amazon's Alexa now offers open access, so the government researcher can get all the data he needs from there. Even the judge admitted that he was worried the result of this case would force Google to hand over data to researchers involved in all sorts of lawsuits -- and thus, it's expected that he'll have the government compensate Google for the work needed to supply the data. Already, though, the ACLU (which is on the other side from the government in this case) has said that it, too, will need to get data from Google in order to respond to the government's case. While it seems unlikely that any of the data revealed gives up any seriously private info, this does seem to open some worrisome precedent-setting doors that could lead to problems in future cases. Update: A different take on today's events claims that Google and the DoJ had already reached a settlement on handing over the data before today's hearings -- and the hearings were just a facade to make everyone look better.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    vladimir sukmeov, Mar 14th, 2006 @ 6:38pm

    did you know.

    the FBI uses google too....
    so im guessing when they see what 12 year old kids are searching to get by forums and xxx passwords and illegal programs cracks etc...
    and im sure the most important information will come up pretty quickly.
    how many peopel search for the words boobs and beastialty...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    old man, Mar 14th, 2006 @ 6:46pm

    donkey p0rn

    I do!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Chris H, Mar 14th, 2006 @ 6:54pm

    Ugh, what legal precedent allows the US government to just randomy force a corporation to release data that is not evidence for a criminal trial?

    I read they want to use it in a court case in PA but it wouldn't serve as evidence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Joe Smith, Mar 14th, 2006 @ 6:55pm


    I find it amazing that a Judge would order the seizure (because that is what is going on here) of private information of private information because the government says the information might help them get an experts report which might help them support legislation which might be valid.

    A decision favoring the government will mean that the government can issue an injunction any time to anyone demanding private information if they think that perons has information might be useful to the administration in advancing the administration's ideological agenda.

    Whatever happened to the Fourth Amendment?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Jared, Mar 14th, 2006 @ 7:05pm


    You know this is ridiculous,I support the goverment on most things but it seems to me maybe im reading it wrong but they are forcing Google to turn over their info.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    discojohnson, Mar 14th, 2006 @ 7:23pm

    is it worth it?

    granted there's the high probability that google can produce a better result set for the gov't, but when the gov't asked the other search engines to release info they did so willingly. what purpose does it serve for google to release information when the gov't already obtained a good chunk of info from the other engines? what can google provide that is so damn important to waste this much of my tax money? if they've got to release a random sampling, it doesn't matter from where the information comes from. even if it's in the interest of national security, i'm sure terrorist networks use msn and y! plenty of the time too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    beveryafraid, Mar 14th, 2006 @ 7:58pm

    Re: is it worth it?

    Clearly they didn't find what they wanted in the data they already have, so they need to do more fishing. This needs to go to the supreme court if an inferior judge cannot figure out it is wrong.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Ghandi, Mar 14th, 2006 @ 8:27pm

    Re: Amazing

    I totally agree with you, Joe Smith. And why limit it to search engines? Why not EVERYTHING?

    It would be understandable if they were to obtain a warrant to obtain info from specific IPs that used google that were suspected of crimes, but this is above and beyond ...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    westin, Mar 14th, 2006 @ 9:03pm


    The government is assuming more and more power... it is kind of like the frog in the boiling pot of water. For the most part, the people aren't even noticing. The powers that be are trying to catch up... they are about 22 years behind their Orwellian deadline.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Chuck, Mar 14th, 2006 @ 9:16pm


    This goverment, has to much power, it runs on a but of what ifs, and it could bes. It has no real reason to go after google, its just like everything else they do, a stupid waste of time and money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Andyware, Mar 14th, 2006 @ 9:22pm

    This data is already public and attainable, other than user ips, I just dont see what the big deal is?!?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Andrew Strasser, Mar 14th, 2006 @ 9:33pm

    The Update was very informative.

    Wonder why that was on the UK's server. Oh and to the person who was asking about why Google it's simply because Google is the best. That and the last set of addy's they got were mostly all g-mail so...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Sarojin, Mar 14th, 2006 @ 9:34pm

    Re: Amazing

    40 years of right wing wacko fundies taking over the judiciary is what happened. Federalist Society, GOP, and so-called Religious Right have taken over the country and are dragging us back (women by the hair) to the middle ages.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Sarojin, Mar 14th, 2006 @ 9:39pm

    Re: Crazy

    Does everyone forget that Google was the ONLY company that didn't turn over their info VOLUNTARILY? MSN, Yahoo, both rolled out the red carpet, as did most of the major phone companies. We live in a fascist state, wake up!!!

    When Google said "No, that's not legal" the "no longer of the people, for the people" government enacted legal measures. What, no legal justification before the request (it's about porn), just have a right-wing appointed judge rule in our favor so we can ignore the law.

    You should all be very concerned, and become very active, to throw out the criminals occupying the white house.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    WhoNu, Mar 14th, 2006 @ 10:07pm

    They came a knockin'

    Yesterday the govment came to my door and said they needed a portion of my phone book. I thought what the heck would they want that for. Seems as though some people have been searching in them for some kind of information. So I opened one up and sure enough, right there in black and white is my name, address and phone number. Jeepers creepers, not only that but with a little more lookin you can figure out my wifes name and my teenage daughter. So I hastely tore a few pages out and thrust them at 'em, telling them to go away and leave me alone. It was later that I realized that in the part I'd given them was the pages for a local 'Gentlemans Club' all circled and everything. I figure that they will be back wanting more pages, so I've been busy going through the rest of it circleing all the churches in the local area. I hope that will make them happy, wait a minute, someones knockin at my door now...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Gestapo, Mar 14th, 2006 @ 11:02pm


    Seems we have heard it all before... but nobody responds till the innocent are in jails or camps and the tanks and troops are marching the streets. History repeats itself unless the lesson is learned and not forgotten. For the people by the people is a joke under the current regime. Thank heavens the current reign will be over soon, but I fear that the sheep are asleep and the next one won't be any different. I wonder what will it take? Tanks and troops, or do we have to go that far? Today, nobody has to ask to see your papers directly... they just go to companies like google and demand for them to show your papers for you. Thanks Bush Admin... and the Facist House and Senate... Your citizens love you! Keep up the good work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Original Thought, Mar 15th, 2006 @ 12:26am

    We need to take back the WEB!!!!!

    This is getting very out of hand we are losing our freedom!

    This may be interesting to some of you:

    Join some of these organizations before we are so stifled that we will no longer be able to reverse engineer anything

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    pwb, Mar 15th, 2006 @ 4:55am

    This is completely insance. Google has *NOTHING* at all to do with the matter in question. It is crazy that the government can knock on their door and force them to spend a bunch of time and energy turning over a bunch of data that they have good reason to prefer not to turn over. Even if the data were not sensitive (I believe it certainly could be), how can the government force it from a party with no involvement in the case? Why cannot the government get the data on the open market (e.g., from a company like which is in the business if supplying exacltly this type of data). Crazy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    RW, Mar 15th, 2006 @ 12:03pm


    Its easy for people to forget history when we're busy taking facts out of our kids' history books and re-writing it so that it is more-PC or omitting it altogether.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Welcom Networks, Mar 15th, 2006 @ 12:07pm


    I agree with those who are unhappy with the pending decision forcing Google to release data to the government. However I don’t’ believe it to be against the law, we do have to keep in mind that the Patriot Act is still in to play, thus giving the Government power to confiscate information. If the FBI or whoever wants this information from Google, could supply an actual or better reasoning behind why they want our data then I could easily support them…for a proper cause. I do find this whole dispute to be rather frustrating in that there has been no reasoning as to why that data is needed, in which case the Patriot Act would not assist the government in this case. Thank you, Jay Weatherell Operations Lead Welcom Networks

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Jan Christiansen, Mar 15th, 2006 @ 12:27pm

    Economic Development

    If the Feds win then consider this scenario.

    The Supreme Court has already taken the position that Cities can expropriate private property to facilitate economic development.

    Suppose a mid sized city goes to the credit card issuers and says "We demand to know what people living in our city are buying from outside of our service area. We want the data so we can encourage specialty retailers to locate in our city and thereby foster economic development here."

    What happens then?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    a, Mar 14th, 2007 @ 1:20pm

    email adress

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    brash, Mar 14th, 2007 @ 1:21pm

    email adress

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads


Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.