Judge to Demand Google Release Data

UPDATED A U.S. federal judge indicated Tuesday that he would grant at least part of a Department of Justice request to access search result data from Google. The feds say the data would be used to defend a law against pornography, but the search giant says the demand violates the privacy of its users.

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.

When news of the request for Google data broke in January of this year, it ignited a near-immediate negative response from both the company and many Internet users.

Legal analysts say Google has a chance to have the subpoena overturned, however the final decision lies in the hands of Judge James Ware in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Ware indicated he plans to rule "very quickly" following hearings Tuesday morning.

Ware said he was adverse to rule completely in the government's favor, as he didn't want to create the impression in the public that everything they search for is subject to government oversight.

Legal analysts say a decision could also have far reaching effects on Internet privacy on a larger scale. If the federal government is permitted to obtain the search records from Google, it could open the doors for future information requests. This could include access to personal Internet records, some industry watchers fear.

Google lawyers made such a case on Tuesday. They told the judge that government investigators could perform similar research by looking at the publicly available analytics site Alexa.com.

While Yahoo and MSN have already complied with the government subpoena after assurances that private information was not revealed, Google has chosen to fight the government request. It says that revealing the information may also divulge trade secrets to its competitors.

The U.S. government disputes this claim, and says no data about how Google's search engine operates would be revealed.

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