Government Wants Google Search Data

The Bush administration on Wednesday asked a United States federal judge in San Jose, Calif. to order Google to turn over search records from its database. The request stems from a failure by the search giant to comply with a subpoena issued in October.

The federal government is attempting to gather data to support a child protection law that was struck down two years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court. Under that law, the government could punish pornography sites that made content easily accessible to minors.

However, the Supreme Court found the law too broad, and said that it could restrict the ability of adults to access these sites. It gave the government an opportunity to either rewrite the law or prove that it doesn't violate the First Amendment rights of the Web site owners and visitors.

Google contends that supplying the information would violate the privacy of its users, as well as divulge trade secrets that could help its competitors. Company officials said they plan to fight the request, calling it "overreaching."

Privacy advocates warn that this is the case they have long feared, where with a little bit of legal action, entire databases with personal information could be open for companies -- and the government -- to see.

According to federal officials, other unnamed search engines have complied with the request, but Google has not. "The production of those materials would be of significant assistance to the government's preparation of its defense of the constitutionality of this important statute," the government said in its filing.

Details of the U.S. government's effort to force Google to comply first appeared in the San Jose Mercury-News on Thursday.

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