Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Spy versus Spy

I don't like this.

We already know Google keeps track of every search we make on it's search engine and what we click on from that search page and now it's evident that the Festus White House is free to data mine phone calls and whatever it can get it hands on to spy on us as well. Scary thing when Festus forces Google to become partners. . .

In a closely watched case pitting prosecutors' demands against privacy, U.S. District Judge James Ware will hear arguments about whether the U.S. Justice Department's request is too broad and whether the request is necessary to help defend an antipornography law in court this fall.

On Jan. 18, the U.S. Justice Department asked Ware to order Google to comply with a subpoena. It demands a "random sampling" of 1 million Internet addresses accessible through Google's popular search engine, and a random sampling of 1 million search queries submitted to Google in a one-week period.

The outcome will determine whether the Justice Department will be able to use Google search terms in a social science research project that will be used this fall to defend an antipornography law. The Bush administration argues that criminal sanctions in the 1998 law--which has been placed on hold by the courts--are more effective ways to shield children than antiporn filtering software.

SiliconValley.com retorts better than I:

Because the administration's rationale for making such demands isn't exactly rock solid. It argues that the information it has requested, which includes 1 million random Web addresses and records of all Google searches from a one-week period, is essential to its upcoming defense of the constitutionality of the Child Online Protection Act, a federal law designed to keep children from sexually explicit content on the Internet (see "You gotta fight; for your right; to porno"). Only by analyzing such data, argues the DOJ, can the government learn how often random searches turn up pornography. But is it really statistically accurate to surmise minors' access to raunchy content by analyzing the aggregate behavior of adults who are exercising adult intentions and adult rights? Doesn't seem like it. And isn't the administration really demanding this information to further its own political agenda, trying to prop up legislation that has already been identified as faulty? Remember, in June of 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court found that COPA likely violates the First Amendment right to free speech. Writing for the majority, which sent the law back to a lower court for review, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote, "There is a potential for extraordinary harm and a serious chill upon protected speech [if the law were to take effect.]" There's a lot more at stake here than just our privacy, folks. Let's hope we come up with a way to get some salt on this icy slope.