Friday, January 20, 2006

US interference in UK affairs

Google has been resisting a US Department of Justice request (since August) for information about all Google users. This means international users (ie non-US). What I do as a UK citizen has nothing to do with the US. This is interference with my rightful pursuance of knowledge. Presumably, if the last computer to link with me is not on US soil then there is absolutely no legal right to chase information about me. This is paranoia. They’ll be after my bank account details next. This blog is public domain and they are welcome to read this - like it or not. The more I think about this the more irritated I am becoming. I have nothing to hide or fear (do I?), but it is very annoying. Very annoying. The internet search engine is resisting efforts to force it to hand over data about what people are looking for. Google was asked for information on the types of query submitted over a week and the websites included in its index.

The department wants the data to try to show in court it has the right approach in enforcing an online pornography law. And what else? The thin end of the wedge. And where it is being shoved, it is hurting already. It says the order will not violate personal privacy. What a load of crap: it has to by the very nature of the request in the first place. Google says the request is too broad and threatens trade secrets. And what else?

Privacy groups say any sample could reveal the identities of Google users indirectly. The demand is a worrying precedent because the government also wants to make more use of internet data for fighting crime and terrorism. Here we are. Here’s the real reason.

However, the Department of Justice has said that several of Google's main competitors have already complied. If they say so. Complied? And what’s the penalty if they didn’t, I wonder? Did they need to?

The original request (!) was first issued last August. It included: a list of terms entered into the search engine during an unspecified single week, potentially tens of millions of queries and a million randomly selected web addresses from various Google databases. Actually, if all the search engines gave the US Department of Justice all it needs, then at this rate the system would be totally clogged up in days. The US government is seeking to defend the 1998 Child Protection Act, which has been blocked by the Supreme Court because of legal challenges over how it is enforced.

This didn’t work so try the back door then. Won’t take NO!! for an answer.

Google's refusal to comply prompted US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Wednesday to ask a federal judge in the state of California for an order to hand over the records. But Google's lawyers said it would fight the order: "Google is not a party to this lawsuit and their demand for information overreaches," associate general counsel Nicole Wong said in a written statement. "We had lengthy discussions with them to try to resolve this, but were not able to and we intend to resist their motion vigorously."

Google has also said that providing the data would make its users think it was willing to reveal personal information about them, as well as giving competitors access to trade secrets. Bloody right.

One of its search rivals, Yahoo, said it had already complied with a similar government subpoena "on a limited basis and did not provide any personally identifiable information."

And Microsoft said in a statement that it "works closely with law enforcement officials worldwide to assist them when requested. It is our policy to respond to legal requests in a very responsive and timely manner in full compliance with applicable law," it said.

Sounds like roll over and put your legs up in the air - without a fight.

I note this date (20th January 2006) and will see how long it takes Blair’s UK government to copy/follow this ‘request’.


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