Google Fights Department of Justice

If you thought video game regulation was out of control after the fallout of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2/Xbox), you have not seen anything yet. The federal government continues to look over the shoulders of Internet users and gamers as the Justice Department announced that it was seeking billions of search queries from Google, AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft. The next time you type “Hot Coffee mod�, who knows who might learn about it.

Google is fighting back, refusing to hand over the data after being subpoenaed by the DOJ, but its competitors, AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft, have all turned over the information requested. The government says they are requesting search terms and not anything that would link them to users. But Kurt Opsahl, an attorney for Electronic Frontier Foundation says, “Search is a window into people’s personalities. They should be able to take advantage of the Internet without worrying about Big Brother looking over their shoulders.â€?

Disclosure: We may earn a commission from links on this page

The government’s case is based on a continuing attempt at curbing Internet pornography after courts struck down the Child Online Protection Act due to First Amendment concerns and the Supreme Court prevented former Attorney General John Ashcroft from enforcing it. The search engines themselves believe they can block minors from getting such content. Ramez Naam, group program manager of MSN Search said, “We think that our filtering technology does a good job protecting minors from inadvertently seeing adult content.�

The Department of Justice contends otherwise as it appeals the court decisions. The DOJ wants to prove how easy it is to inadvertently stumble upon porn. The DOJ wants to use a large sample of search terms from different search engines to conduct a controlled experiment, using those terms to do its own searches in an attempt to measure how often “material that is harmful to minors� might appear. Google argues that they are not part of the government’s case and as such, the government has no right to use its property to perform its test. “We intend to resist their motion vigorously,� said Google attorney Nicole Wong.

Leave a Comment