DoJ hits back at Google over search logs

The US Department of Justice has hit back at Google over the search engine’s refusal to hand over search records.

The Department of Justice says it needs the search files in order to demonstrate that sites offering pornographic images of children are not only widespread but can be easily found. The Bush administration is also contending that the existing filtering system does not work and is demanding tougher controls. An earlier Bill known as the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) was thrown out by the courts as being unconstitutional.

The DoJ has now submitted an eighteen page brief to the court challenging Google’s refusal to hand over the information. In it the DoJ points out that it has specifically asked for any information, such as IP address, which could identify an individual to be removed. Therefore the subpoena does not violate a citizen’s right to privacy.

Earlier this month Google issued a stern rebuttal to the Do J in papers submitted to the court. In the papers Google asserted that handing over the search logs would compromised the privacy of the millions of visitors that daily use Google’s search engine. Furthermore, should Google be forced to comply with the subpoena, its business would be badly damaged through the loss of trust in its ability to maintain confidentiality.

Other search engines including Yahoo!, MSN and AOL have already complied with the DoJ’s request for search logs.

Refuting Google’s privacy argument, Philip B. Stark, a California Professor who is acting as an advisor to the DoJ in this case said in the deposition that ‘The study does not involve examining the queries in more than a cursory way. It involves running a random sample of the queries through the Google search engine and categorising the results’

The dispute is due back before the US District Judge James Ware in San Jose on 13 March.

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