Over here in the US, it's not a day that ends in 'y' if there isn't a new court battle somewhere. But today's story from the other side of the bar is of particular significance to many of us.
Google has been handed a subpoena to turn over a list of IP addresses by the White House, and is flatly refusing to comply. The US Government would like to obtain the list as part of its fight against child pornography, though it assures Google that the list will not be used to identify individuals or connect them to sites. One wonders, then, just what use it would be.
Google, whose corporate motto is "Don't be Evil", is not very interested in violating the privacy of its users. Unless it involves scanning their emails for keywords to drive their famous text-based advertising.
Ashok Ramani, Google's lawyer, said, "Google's acceding to the request would suggest that it is willing to reveal information about those who use its services. This is not a perception that Google can accept."
Google's main competitors - Yahoo, MSN and AOL - have all complied with the White House subpoena, a Justice Department official revealed yesterday. In response to this, Yahoo wheeled out a spokesperson to reassure customers and shareholders alike. "We're rigorous defenders of our users' privacy," said Yahoo spokeswoman, Mary Osako. "In our view, this is not a privacy issue."
MSN declined to comment, merely claiming they worked "closely with law enforcement officials worldwide to assist them when requested".
The Bush Administration is insisting it requires the requested data to once again defend the constitutional legality of the Child Online Protection Act
in Federal Court. The Act was struck down in 2004 because it was deemed to be too broad and could be used to prevent adults from accessing legal porn websites. Congress would never let that pass.
The request started last summer, but when the internet giant originally refused, the Attorney General Alberto Gonzales started to turn up the pressure. This latest volley, however, could end up getting Google in serious trouble unless they back down.
Google called the request "overbroad, unduly burdensome, vague and intended to harass."
Personally, I'm getting about sick and tired of how many things that my dear Government would like to know about. Worse, Google is clearly a global company, so I can't imagine complaince with this subpoena not stepping on a LOT of toes. Good for Google for fighting for our right to privacy!
Who's side are you on in this debate? Has the US government taken a step too far? Do you welcome Google taking a stand or does the Mountain View search giant have its own questions to answer on privacy? Let your voice be heard
but be warned: Big Brother is Watching You.