Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Is There Anyone The Government Didn't Subpoena For Their COPA Defense?

from the information-is-free...-for-the-government dept

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.

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    g, 30 Mar 2006 @ 4:09am

    just give up...

    Look, there's no such thing as "privacy" any more. Everyone in the world knows your SSN, my cat has a credit card with a $10,000 limit, and Bill Gates owns the world... Serioulsy stop caring or stop doing bad things online. ANYTHING you do over the net is subject to having anyone in the world know about it. As for the government...They have been collecting data on you for a long time now and more or less businesses have to do what they ask...

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

  2. identicon
    Curtis Breuker, 30 Mar 2006 @ 4:21am

    The gov'ts reach is a serious problem

    With everyone on the internet these days using it for everything personal and business our privacy is more fragile than ever. I know way to many companies that would never stand up for its clients, its great to see google stand up for its users (yes i know they noted other reasons as well). Companies should have a veritable army keeping our data private, but i guess once they get big enough the cunsumer is no longer top priority.

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

  3. identicon
    Rafael Cortes, 30 Mar 2006 @ 5:18am

    Stop collecting information...

    A law should be passed to allow companies such as ISPs, Telecoms, and such, NOT TO KEEP information that could be used to view past activities on their users, whereas, if a law enforcement organization get a warrant, then they should collect the info regarding THAT individual they got a warrant for, and collect the information for the duration of the warrant/investigation, pass it to the agency and delete it from their systems. Just my 2 cents though.

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

  4. identicon
    Scott, 30 Mar 2006 @ 5:53am

    Re: just give up...

    You must not understand the base of this issue. Who decided what is "unacceptable"? Filters can be set up differently for each company/person using them from each vendor selling them.

    Is the gov't looking at explicit allow filters, explicit deny filters, key word filters, or blacklist filters? This data is not meaningful in any sort of way other than to make large sweeping cuts towards what one group considers acceptable(and this point christian)

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

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2006 @ 6:27am

    That's not going to fix the problem when these freaks who get caught do 6 months or less in jail...

    Make whatever laws you want - the laws already exist to take these people down, just freakin' enforce them...

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

  6. identicon
    ?, 30 Mar 2006 @ 7:42am

    Not Me!

    They didn....

    oh wait.

    Just was looking through my mail. Looks like I got mine.

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

  7. identicon
    M. Sievers, 30 Mar 2006 @ 8:40am


    I'm sorry, but what freaks? The whole purpose of COPA is to keep children from accessing porn on the internet. So what freaks, the children?

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

  8. identicon
    Mike, 30 Mar 2006 @ 8:57am

    Ha Owned!

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

  9. identicon
    mark, 30 Mar 2006 @ 9:12am

    My advice: Since its illegal to use a SSN for ID, lie about it in online forms. Nobody but the feds can verify it, everyone else can only check if you've used it before. They play hardball? You didn't remember it right or its a typo. Period. The rest of your "personal" info? Lie some more. Nobody online rates your accurate information. Income? Home value? Rent? Make it all up. Enjoy yourself. Then use snailmail (Priority 2/3 day if its important) for the real stuff, and use a cheap flat-rate minibox too big for some methhead's pocket. Besides, you'll be solicited for a better class of offers this way. You wouldn't be selling yourself short, would you?

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

  10. identicon
    Angry Rivethead, 30 Mar 2006 @ 9:32am

    And just how...

    Was the gov't supposed to find out from the info they gathered...WHO precisely was sitting behind the computer when the porn was accessed?

    Basicly they'd wind up with a bunch of IP addy's associated with account holders (NOT minors) accessing IP addys of porn...

    Maybe gov't employees are just looking for the good porn sites based on traffic.

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

  11. identicon
    bam, 30 Mar 2006 @ 9:39am

    hey mark...

    good suggestions
    but most methheads dont look for your info over the net...they dig through your trash
    i know this article is about gov.'t...
    but if you are worried about identity theft
    shredding documents is your best option

    as for the gov't... i never trusted them anyway
    i think there are better ways to prove that information
    (oubviously!) i dont support access to child porn
    but i doubt the gov'ts real point to all this is their law

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

  12. identicon
    Vonage is a rip-off, 30 Mar 2006 @ 9:48am

    Vonage charges an account termination fee. Not an EARLY termination fee. Just a termination fee no matter how long you've had an account. The termination fee is buried in their online contract.

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

  13. identicon
    chad, 30 Mar 2006 @ 10:13am

    Goin after the kiddie molesters

    With the time and money the government is spending just reviewing the billions (or maybe trillions) of pages of info provided by these companies, those same people reviewing should be out there acting like little girls and boys in chat rooms and suckering in these pervs. The results are alot better and sting operations aren't going to raise any eyebrows at the ACLU!

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

  14. identicon
    anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2006 @ 10:58am


    You can't make a SSN up! Somewhere out there is the real owner of the one you just made up!

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

  15. identicon
    Scooter, 30 Mar 2006 @ 11:29am

    Why does no one realize that COPA will not work?
    There is internet outside of America!
    Yes! people produce and consume pornography in other countries! and that porn can be accessed from your home computer and the US government can do nothing about it except pass more laws that will have no effect!

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

  16. identicon
    Markbnj, 30 Mar 2006 @ 11:39am

    COPA not the right deal

    Scooter: Agreed, COPA will not work.
    I suggest we need to Approve the .XXX domain.

    That way I could filter it out EASIER! at my router!

    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
Techdirt Gear
Show Now: Takedown
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.