Again, nice job Google!
The government's original request demanded billions of URLs and two month's worth of users' search queries. Google resisted the subpoena, prompting the judge's order today. In addition to excluding search queries from the subpoena, Judge James Ware also required the government to limit its demand for URLs to 50,000. We will fully comply with the judge's order.
This is a clear victory for our users and for our company, and Judge Ware's decision regarding search queries is especially important. While privacy was not the most significant legal issue in this case (because the government wasn't asking for personally identifiable information), privacy was perhaps the most significant to our users.
This is great news. Though, I do hope the real message about limits on government overreaching and privacy does make it's way to the general populace. I was amazed to hear even on the BBC World Service the other night a summary of the case saying that this was about "child porn." Arrgh! What stupid ignorant morons! This has NOTHING to do with that! The DOJ is looking to re-enact a law the Supreme Court already called unconstitutional called the Child Online Protection Act. The law wanted make companies responsible for blocking access kids have to things like pornography online, specifically "material that is harmful to minors" or obscene.
Think about that. In the US there are lots of places where a mother breast-feeding a child is considered obscene, so you can imagine what a law like this could do in the hands of a Republican controlled congress. The Supreme Court was right to strike it down, and Google was right to resist aiding the DOJ in trying to defend it.
Beyond COPA, just the fact that the DOJ asked for such a huge amount of data is worrysome. Like I said my last post about this - it doesn't matter if there was no IP address or other personally identifiable information associated with the first batch of Search queries the government wanted. Once they get a hold of two months worth of searches, they can easily go back to a judge and claim that it's important for national security that they have more information about the people who looked for certain terms, like 'dirty bomb', etc. They wouldn't be trolling then, since there was proof that a person actually did so, on such and such a date and time. You think the RIAA is bad, imagine a government witchhunt based on search terms gleamed from Google queries.
Okay, enough ranting. I'm still annoyed that Yahoo! gave up this information, and MSN and AOL, and this is the one instance that I'm happy that Google still has a bigger marketshare so that at least the best source for this stuff was denied to DOJ.
Update: Urgh! Now it's Reuter and the New York Times doing it. Morons.