By Eric Auchard
> Google Inc. on Friday formally rejected the U.S. Justice Department's
> subpoena of data from the Web search leader, arguing the demand
> violated the privacy of users' Web searches and its own trade secrets.
> Responding to a motion by U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales,
> Google also said in a filing in U.S. District Court for the Northern
> District of California the government demand to disclose Web search
> data was impractical.
> The Bush administration is seeking to compel Google to hand over Web
> search data as part of a bid by the Justice Department to appeal a
> 2004 Supreme Court injunction of a law to penalize Web site operators
> who allow children to view pornography.
> Google is going it alone in opposing the U.S. government request.
> Rivals Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc. are among the companies
> that have complied with the Justice Department demand for data to be
> used to make its case.
> Google's lawyers said the company shares the government's concern with
> materials harmful to minors but argued that the request for its data
> was irrelevant. They offered a series of technical arguments why this
> data was not useful.
> The Mountain View, California-based company said that complying with
> the U.S. government's request for "untold millions of search queries"
> would put an undue burden on the company, including a "week of
> engineer time to complete."
> "Algorithms regularly change. The identical search query submitted
> today may yield a different result than the identical search conducted
> yesterday," attorneys from Perkins Coie LLP, the company's external
> legal counsel, argue in the filing.
> Complying with the Justice Department request would also force Google
> to reveal how its Web search technology works -- something it
> jealously guards as a trade secret, the company argued. It refuses to
> disclose even the total number of searches conducted each day.
> Google's resistance contrasts with a deal the company has struck with
> the Chinese government to censor some searches on a new site in China,
> a move that has drawn sharp criticism from members of the
> U.S. Congress and human rights activists.
> "Google users trust that when they enter a search query into a Google
> search box ... that Google will keep private whatever information
> users communicate absent a compelling reason," attorneys for Google
> said in the filing.
> The legal spat also comes amid heightened sensitivity to privacy
> issues by the company as it recently began offering a new version of
> its Google Desktop service that vacuums up data stored on user PCs and
> makes it accessible on the users' other computers. For customers who
> consent to the service, copies of their data are stored on Google's > central computers.
> Privacy activists have rallied to the defense of Google for fighting
> the U.S. government request while some conservative and religious
> organizations have criticized the company for failing to help the
> government combat child pornography.
> The American Civil Liberties Union, with other civil rights groups,
> bookstores and alternative media outlets filed a friend of the court
> brief on behalf of Google.
Damn! Just when I get really upset with the wackos at the ACLU, they come on the right side of an issue.
The hearing on the Justice Department motion to compel Google to
> divulge the search data is scheduled to take place on March 13 in San
> Jose before U.S. District Judge James Ware.
> "The government must show that this request is the most relevant way
> to accomplish its goal," said Perry Aftab, an attorney, privacy
> activist and executive director of WiredSafety.org, a popular online
> child safety site.
> "Why would Google or anyone else turn over data that might create
> further risks for their customers? The public policy gains don't
> outweigh the risks," she said.
> Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.
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