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In Google vs Government, It's Not About Child Porn  (View post)

Martin Wang [PersonRank 1]

Saturday, January 21, 2006
14 years ago

It is very funny, isnt it? I have read some articles about this case in some mainstream websites before. All of them pointed to child porn. I read the original one as well. The author was clear, and I dont think it is hard to understand the author's idea. Why was it so "easily" misunderstood and spread so widely without any correction even till now? There must be some reason behind, otherwise the whole thing is too unprofessional, or accidental.

Daniel Brandt [PersonRank 3]

14 years ago #

Yes, it's about children getting exposed to porn because filtering doesn't work well. But, even if the newspapers misreported this, it's rather a lucky mistake. Think of it as a "Freudian slip." The government gets millions of search terms, and then is in a position to find a bunch where someone is actually looking for child porn. SInce this is already illegal, the next step is to subpoena for the cookie ID and IP address of these specific searches. You've got your foot in the door already, you've got specific evidence that people are looking for child porn, and you've got the law behind you, so what's to stop the feds from taking the next step?

Google knows this. Google also knows that they should have dome data retention policies to protect those who use their engine. But they don't, and as far as anyone knows, they keep all data forever. Morerover, since a single cookie is used across all of their various services, many of their users are already identifiable even without tracing the IP address.

Google is right to resist this subpoena, but they are wrong to pretend that they're the good guys for doing it. If they were the good guys, they would institute some rigid data retention policies. It's not illegal in the U.S. to not retain the data in the first place. All you really need for profiling purposes is maybe the last few weeks of data. Google should rotate its databanks, and so should every other search engine. Until they do, I won't be impressed with their current posture on this subpoena.

Mark Draughn [PersonRank 5]

14 years ago #

If memory serves, back around 1990, U.S. Attorneys in several southern states launched a war against a number of adult video stores. The pattern was similar in each case: The store was raided, its merchandise confiscated, and its owners charged with a number of porn-related crimes, including child pornography. After a little while, all the child porn charges were dropped.

A number of observers thought the prosecutors knew that the child porn charges wouldn't hold up but filed them anyway, hoping the stink of child porn would keep civil liberties organizations from entering the case on the side of the store owners---as they would be more likely to do if it was only adult materials.

At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, the same logic would seem to apply here: It benefits the Justice Department's plans if a lot of people have the misconception that this is a fight against child porn, rather than just a question of children's access to objectionable materials. It wouldn't surprise me if some of the confusion turned out to be due to DOJ staffers dropping "child porn" into the interviews whenever they can.

(FYI, Over at Windypundit, I got the story right: windypundit.com/archives/2006/ ...)

JASC [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

the other question is then what does the public do when their e-mail is held by very large corporations that have to or want to or do comply with government requests sans warrent for informaiton.

Or how about those companies that willingly turn over inforamation to the government as part of a partnership, for example a health care company that turns over the names, diagnoses, and other information to the government because HIPAA requires it.

What is some bored disgruntled GS-9 going to do with all this? Where does the problem start and where does the problem end? Then once defined, what do individuals do about it?

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Martin writes
> The author was clear, and I dont think it is hard
> to understand the author's idea.

Yes, but note the original author also made the same mistake. Later in his article he was talking about "child porn" (see the Mercury News quote in the post). Until today the quote isn't corrected or clarified.

/pd [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Phillip, Google is not naive enough to hand over the data. All the other 3 major players handed over the data beause they were scared (?) – None of them wanted to go thru the DOJ scandal (Halloween Document) series of MSFT.

But wait a second, lets no forget that AOL also handed over their data too. Take a step back, what technology is AOL using – Dah ?? -its the same engine which runs Google Search. So goog indirectly has handed over their internal propritery information...

So what is it that Google does not want to handover ?? What is intriguing between those two dates.. why not other dates ?? remember the dates are for current period.. not like AOL/MSFt/YAHOO who were asked this a year ago.. and meekly handed it over...

Targeting is a sphosicated technique, fortuntly.. or rather unfortunly Google has the best techniques ....

TDavid [PersonRank 1]

14 years ago #

Phillip – your quote from me is out of context here too, despite me having a conversation with you about it in the comments and fully explaining what was said. I didn't misunderstand the original article and take the meaning out of context, rather, I explained what the real story was and how it would be reported .. as it always is. You just realized this happens with porn now? KP is always trotted out as the reason to excite people as I knew it would in this case.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

TDavid, I linked to your full blog post while quoting you, but here is the full context if you allow me (my emphasis using 3 asterisks):

"I’m glad to hear that Google will fight the government’s efforts to subpoena information related to their battle to crack down on porn under the guise of the protecting children on the internet.

<<The government contends it needs the Google data to determine how often pornography shows up in online searches. In court papers filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Justice Department lawyers revealed that Google has refused to comply with a subpoena issued last year for the records, which include a request for one million random Web addresses and records of all Google searches from any one-week period.>>

The government doesn’t need Google’s data to go after ***child porn (KP)*** sites. They can work even more closely with groups like ASACP (Adult Sites Against Child Pornography) which I did the Blogathon for here a couple years ago. They can add more staff to follow up on these reports and work to shut down these illegal sites. (...)

Just in case I haven’t said this enough in this piece, I’m all for ***the feds cracking down on KP***, just don’t try and take away the adults ability to find and enjoy movies like Pirates.

Google has my support 1000% on this one."

I still think you put this government request to Google into a "battling child porn" context in which it doesn't belong, even after reading through your arguments in the comments to your post. Also, I don't disagree with other points you made in the comments, in fact I think you make some excellent points. I too think the "child porn" argument is often used as one to silence people who try to stand in for their privacy rights.

Tadeusz Szewczyk [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

In Germany we call that "Stille Post" but the US press being as it is, a commercialized propaganda machine serving the interest of those in power, I am, it's sad, not surprised. According to a survey more than 80% of the american public still believes that Iraq had WMD's and 60% believe that it supported Al Qaida. Both not true but who cares?

Anonymous [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

Maybe the Mercury News editor got COPA mixed up with the CPPA. I confused the two when I first read the news, and other people confuse COPA with COPPA, because all three relate to children, the Internet, and preventing pornography, and the first two were both struck down by the Supreme Court.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

TDavid clarified in his blog. Thanks TDavid!
makeyougohmm.com/20060121/2868 ...

pacificdave [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

i wish there was a way to back Google in it's efforts. i'm pretty sure Google "would" comply if the request wasn't so broad. if the Bush Administration would just go on live TV, broadcast that they just want this certain piece of information that has nothing to do with profiling everyone, and nothing more... then IMHO i think Google would comply. just turning over information on the DL isn't a very good for Google's image. every blogger/ reporter who wanted to make a news story out of it would try to make it appear Google was going against it's motto. i'm also pretty sure that 8.5% drop in their stock would sound pretty appealing if that would have been the case..... more like 50%.

here's something else...

"
Internet service providers keep a record of every website a customer visits, and the destination, date and time of emails.

Under a controversial directive passed before Christmas and designed to help police investigate terrorism, service providers will have to keep information for two years.

Yaman Akdeniz, the director of the British organisation Cyber-Rights and Cyber-Liberties, described the move as "disturbing".

"

that was from www.theage.com: theage.com.au/news/world/googl ...

i think there's something more brewing with the U.S. government. i doubt Google turning over all of it's years of stored search history will even come close to this in a year or two. if the government wants to bust me for doing a news/ blog search for KP then arrest me now......

Seth Finkelstein [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

By the way, I have a post about the likely origins of the desire for the search queries, from DoJ briefs in the past arguments about COAP. It's not all that sexy (bad pun).

sethf.com/infothought/blog/arc ...

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Seth, that's interesting. "Toys" on Google indeed returns an adult site in the top 10 using moderate filtering (which I think is default). Using strict filtering, this doesn't happen. The entrance to the "toys" site (which is relatively harmless) is behind an age-button tho. But I suppose some of the queries used daily return sites which are not behind such button, and using data such as (hypothetical) "2,000 users a day search for 'Disney Dolls' which returns a non-secured porn site", the government could have fodder to revive the case.
(To me this is still silly; here in Germany, you can enter any store with magazines and there are "naughty" mags on top. This hasn't ruined any kid, really. What ruins a kid are parents which don't take care. But that's just my opinion.)
Still, whatever motivation the government has, it surely must be balanced with privacy issues of search users.

Anonymous [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

Hey Seth, fancy seeing you here.

Ilya Kniazeu [PersonRank 1]

14 years ago #

At an article on Washington Post they are talking about "data could help shield children from online porn, which was the government's stated goal" so it's not like everybody's missing the point. Check here washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/cont ...

RPH [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

It's perfectly easy for the government to determine how much child porn is available via google by googling the search terms itself.

A blanket request for 2 months of random, anonymous searches (not only ones for child pornography) provides absolutely no evidence that could be accepted in any courtroom . It is merely un-Consitutional government intrusion on privacy without a court order.

Anonymous [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

.

.

This media campaign is also stupid. But this one was led by bloggers.

.

.

.

Chris Beck [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

Heyo – it seems that John Palfrey from the Berkman Center at Harvard Law has also fallen into the trap. Check out the his response to the first question in a Q&A with the Red Herring
redherring.com/Article.aspx?a= ...

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Anonymous, I would argue this controversy evolved in blogs and mainstream news sources all the same. The scoop for example clearly originates in the Mercury News (which already contained the "child pornography" error). At least in blogs comments can quickly correct the post when it makes an error. Mercury News still has the error, ignoring emails sent from readers so far.

Alberto Gonzalez [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

WRONG.

This case is not about pornography of any type.

This case is about setting precedent for the government to get blanket, overreaching access to search records without a warrant and for any reason it decides to make up.

Get it straight.

Tadeusz Szewczyk [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

I would like to point out that the German and the British press get the story right. Maybe too many Americans only speak Spanish?

Check by yourself:
   Google defies US over search data
news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology ...

Yahoo admits it let White House access its databases
timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,1 ...

Privacy experts condemn subpoena of Google
mirror.co.uk/news/latest/tm_ob ...

Tadeusz Szewczyk [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

Of course the Guardian too:

Google defies White House over disclosing users' searches
guardian.co.uk/international/s ...

Rafael Vicaría [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

Well, the Observer Sunday's Guardian) says here,
Focus: Interview
Google's queen of big ideas

observer.guardian.co.uk/focus/ ...

This weekend Google announced that it would not comply with requests from the White House to release records of millions of users' searches to the Justice Department. The Bush administration wanted the information to help crack down on child pornography online.

Google's stance was welcomed by civil liberties groups. But Mayer made it clear in an interview before the announcement that any organisation keeps records of those who use it. 'Just like in the real world, it's hard to undo an action,' she said. 'The same is true on the internet. So we do need users to be aware there are records and ramifications.'

Anonymous [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

It was not that long ago that the story about FBI's Carnivore program was leaked – software used to track data flowing through the Internet. The program was killed off, and there may or may not be a replacement, but probably none as extensive as information collected by Google globally. Google tracks a large amount of data off the Internet, and I'm sure the government security organizations such as CIA, FBI, NSA, etc. would find this data very useful (not porn related) which could be implemented to conduct survelance/searches/etc. Something to think about at least.

John Lehammer [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

The case isn't really about porn at all, children viewing it or child pornography.
The case is about goverments right to access this material and violate the privacy of individuals. Google's data is not the goverments (as i see it at least). None the less this case is hardly about porn. Sure on the surface it is but the root of the case is a more unsettling problem than simply children viewing porn.

Ryan [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

I think the only way this can be settled without the media going bonkers is for Google to develop a "kid friendly" search engine with pre-approved content from "kid friendly" listed sites.

Susan [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

This has NOTHING to do with porn, child porn etc.
The gov wants to find out the percentage increase in people researching 911 and the truth behind it.

levi [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

It has nothing to do with porn period, its about how far the government can go, to illegally snap our constitution and invade our privacy. How far can we go is what they want to know.

Sean D. [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

At what point will the media realize that this isn't about a new law, it is about a law that WAS STRUCK DOWN BY THE SUPREME COURT once already. This doesn't need revision and resubmission...

Hashim [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

no one should consider their online activity private. Understand that now.

Victor BRadley [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

Have you contacted these sources? These seems like a pretty big error on their part. And if analysts were correct in saying the story caused the drop in google's stock price, maybe the sources should be held liable too?

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

14 years ago #

> Have you contacted these sources?

I only contacted Mercury News, Makes You Go Ahhm, as well as a bunch of blogs.

GlenBo [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

This is America?

I guess I'm moving to Russia where it's free...

Lalo [PersonRank 1]

14 years ago #

Write or email the bloggers and companies misreporting this telling them of their error. Hold them to a higher standard than copy & paste stories without fact-checking.

John Palfrey [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

As one of those accused of making this error, I'd note two things. 1) Sometimes, the quote in question was intended to make a related but distinct point (and in fact the person you think was making the error was not making such an error). In the interview with Red Herring noted in the comments field above, I was arguing that this was *not* a case of child pornography (nor a case where the government needed the info to catch a bad guy; nor a case where the government needed the info to stop a bad guy from doing something terrible; nor an instance in which individual privacy was probably at stake at all). I, like those of you above, was well aware of the roots in COPA. Fair enough – one might have been confused. 2) So, I wrote to the reporter at Red Herring. Much to her credit, she helped to get the text changed so as to eliminate my too-nuanced (i.e., apparently misleading) statement. I'd encourage others to write directly to the pubs, especially those who post the content online forever, to make updates as well.

On the merits, I agree that this matter is less about privacy and more about the relationship between the state and companies on the Internet – and how far this government in the United States will go to get private companies to turn over large data sets about Internet usage in support of their position in a policy argument.

Buffy Lyon [PersonRank 0]

14 years ago #

I have to weigh in on the "it's not about children, porn, or anything except setting a precedent on how far the FBI can make a private company bend over when they want to go fishing" side. Once such precedents are set, it's easier to grab stuff in the future, with or without a reason.

This thread is locked as it's old... but you can create a new thread in the forum. 

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