On Tuesday, attorneys for the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Internet search big shot Google are scheduled to meet in a San Jose court for the first time to defend their opposing views on a government subpoena requesting a number of Google’s customer search records, the Associated Press reports via Yahoo News.
Last summer, the DOJ subpoenaed Google and a scattering of other Web search engine companies, including Yahoo, America Online and Microsoft, asking them to turn over a month’s worth of their customers’ search records. All the companies except Google complied without resistance.
The government is seeking the records as part of another ongoing court case, in which the Bush administration is attempting to strengthen the laws that keep Internet pornography out of the hands of underage Web surfers. The DOJ claims Google is overreacting because it’s not seeking any personal data or information on trade secrets.
Google did not hand over the records because it said doing so would violate its users’ privacy, as well as the Electronics Communications Privacy Act.
The high-profile case has spotlighted the issue of how much information search engines actually store, as well as how much of that information should be available to government entities or other interested parties.
University of Connecticut professor of law Paul Schiff Berman, an Internet law specialist, told the AP that even though the DOJ is not requesting sensitive information in this case, a court ruling ordering Google to hand over its search records would open the door for more invasive attempts to procure sensitive records in the future.
“The erosion of privacy tends to happen incrementally,” Berman told the AP. “While no one intrusion may seem that big, over the course of the next decade or two, you might end up in a place as a society where you never thought you would be.”
The DOJ originally requested a month’s worth of records from Google; however, it later agreed to accept only one week’s worth, according to the AP. Legal briefs now say that the government may even be willing to take records from a shorter period of time, the AP reports.
The department wants to use the records to demonstrate how simple it is for a child to circumvent the filtering software meant to keep inappropriate material away from underage users, according to the AP.
For related coverage, read DOJ Seeks 21-Day Deadline for Google Subpoena, Google Shifts Search Records Out of China, Google Formally Rejects DOJ Subpoena, Google Subpoena Hearing Postponed and Google Lawsuit to Be Heard in Feb.
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