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Milton J. Madison - An American Refugee Now Living in China, Where Liberty is Ascending

Federalism, Free Markets and the Liberty To Let One's Mind Wander. I Am Very Worried About the Fate of Liberty in the USA, Where Government is Taking people's Lives ____________________________________________________________________________________________ "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Tolerance in the face of tyranny is no virtue." -Barry Goldwater-

Friday, January 20, 2006

Google Turns Down Request For Information...

This wildly misleading AP article on Google declining to release search engine requests to the US Attorney General is sadly an awful piece of journalism. However, misleading journalism has become par for the course. [An additional note, is that all the other search engines, where this information has been requested, have complied].

The first problem that I have with the article is that it does not mention that the Attorney General is seeking out the data to defend laws against the risk of exposure to pornography by children in a typical search till the 4th paragraph. In journalism 101, One learns that who, what, why, where, when and how are to be answered in the first paragraph or two. By not including relevant subject matter in the first two paragraphs, the writer misleads the reader on the subject and issues being reported upon. The article sites a San Jose Mercury News article where I found this...
The move is part of a government effort to revive an Internet child protection law struck down two years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court. The law was meant to punish online pornography sites that make their content accessible to minors. The government contends it needs the Google data to determine how often pornography shows up in online searches.
the Supreme Court actually had this to say about the law...
The Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked enforcement of a law intended to protect children from pornography on the Internet, saying the law probably violates free-speech guarantees.

By a 5-4 vote, the high court said 1998 legislation "likely violates the First Amendment."

The court ordered parties from both sides to reconsider the issue in a lower-court trial. The ruling gives the Bush administration a chance to prove the law does not violate free-speech rights.
They did not actually strike down the law and said that it MAY be unconstitutional. They gave the Administration the chance to prove that it does not violate free speech rights in the Pennsylvania case and this is the data that the Attorney General is trying to seek from Google. And for all you Clinton worshippers, it was him that signed this legislation into law.

I found a child porn law that was actually struck down by the high court, but this has nothing to do with the current case. court in 2002....
The U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday struck down a 6-year-old law that prohibits the distribution and possession of virtual child pornography that appears to -- but does not -- depict real children.

The law had banned a range of techniques -- including computer-generated images and the use of youthful-looking adults -- which were designed to convey the impression of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

The 6-3 ruling says the law violates the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech. The decision hands a major setback to the Justice Department and the majority of Congress in their legislative efforts to fight child pornography.
This case appears to have struck down a very limited piece of the same or similar legislation but does not address the overall 1st Amendment rights of individuals to traffic in child porn in general.

The case actually under discussion was referred back to the Pennsylvania court and the Supreme Court instructed the Bush administration to prove that the law does not violate freedom of speech. In the meantime, the Supreme Court says that it cannot be enforced. So maybe this in legal circles represents a strike down, I just don't know. But, it is kind of interesting that it is the Bushies that are working on proving that the Clinton signed law does not violate freedom of speech!!! So what is the relevance of this case, legislation attempting to limit exposure of pornographic material to minors, and the Attorney General seeking Google search records? Well, the writer wants to weave a web of subtle sinister accusations that Bush trying to weaken personal privacy and seeking information on individuals without letting the reader know what is exactly going on here. And I wonder just how giving this data to the Attorney General in this case weaken privacy? Is personal information unscrubbable from Google search records? Or not. Can Google comply with the request without releasing sensitive personal data? Honestly, I doubt that this is the problem, Google may be concerned that legislation that limits the ability of children to view porn links may threaten or complicate Google's business. That is another issue that the writer did not even suggest or challenge. Or is Bush using the request for data in this case to somehow end run around privacy restrictions to somehow gain access to personal information of what is really anonymous Google users? And if this is the case, despite a complete lack of evidence to suggest so, by the writer, what is his motive for doing so? Its hard to tell from the poorly constructed and written story, but the writer, as I outline below uses some obtuse arguments to imply that this is the case.

As an aside and mid-post rant, it amazes me how bad the MSM has become in driving an agenda designed to embarrass the Bush Administration without presenting all the facts or aligning the facts so that they appear as if there is some sinister hidden agenda.

In fact, Google is probably more concerned about the commercial issues that the case presents to them rather than the non-existent issues of freedom of speech and privacy that the release of random non-traceable data risks. Of course they use the freedom of speech and privacy issues at the blunt object to fight the request...
Google-- whose motto when it went public in 2004 was "do no evil"-- contends that submitting to the subpoena would represent a betrayal to its users, even if all personal information is stripped from the search terms sought by the government.

"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," company attorney Ashok Ramani wrote in a letter included in the government's filing.

Complying with the subpoena also wound threaten to expose some of Google's "crown-jewel trade secrets," Ramani wrote. Google is particularly concerned that the information could be used to deduce the size of its index and how many computers it uses to crunch the requests.

"This information would be highly valuable to competitors or miscreants seeking to harm Google's business," Ramani wrote.
Google would surely want this to be a freedom of speech issue on their part as a privacy issue in releasing company data and not one that supports the ability of children to access online pornography through their search engine. So it appears as if this is the tactic that they are employing. However, as I understand the case the government does not need and does not seek private data and Google even says this just what happens when someone enters words into a search engine and what kinds of hits come back. So Google's privacy defense here rests on a very strict definition that even if the data has no personal information they won't release it since no one has the right to even know what kind of data the whole population of users accesses. Its seems a little flimsy to me.

So what is the problem? I choose two simple words that a child may use, for example, I put the words round apple in a Google search and get back 18,000,000 hits. I did not chose multiple coupling of words so that I could get an illustration of what I wanted but this was my first try. Unfortunately, the 8th hit down on the first page displays this...
EXHIBITIONIST Movies From Porn Pay Per View
Starring: Released By : Dream Girls Cute coeds getting naked in public! Hot girls
flashing at a public beach and on a boardwalk. Sexy chicks with big tits ...
galleries.aebn.net/.../gallery/genre/exhibitionist/ clip/0032/refid/AEBN-025554/tid/9/layout/mgp_layout2.cfm - 8k - Cached - Similar pages
[not work friendly].

So, in the end, the AP is trying to construe this as a risk to privacy. If they didn't want the reader to think this, then they would not have written the piece in such a heavy handed anti-Bush manner. They do sight some risks here...
"Search engines now play such an important part in our daily lives that many people probably contact Google more often than they do their own mother," said Thomas Burke, a San Francisco attorney who has handled several prominent cases involving privacy issues.

"Just as most people would be upset if the government wanted to know how much you called your mother and what you talked about, they should be upset about this, too."

The content of search request sometimes contain information about the person making the query.

For instance, it's not unusual for search requests to include names, medical profiles or Social Security information, said Pam Dixon, executive director for the World Privacy Forum.

"This is exactly the kind of thing we have been worrying about with search engines for some time," Dixon said. "Google should be commended for fighting this."
I do not think that this is the data that is being requested or that these issues are even those that are at risk here. But the AP feels compelled to muddy the waters by using these people to beat at the issue. The question that I have about these comments, are how does this information get onto Google servers if at all? Is it taken secretly off of your computer when you do a search or does one have to enter this data in order for it to get onto the Google data-bases? If Google is secretly compiling this data on you, then that is the violation of privacy not the Government's desire to find out if children are inadvertently being exposed to pornography through innocent online searches. And do people have the right to privacy if they put their social security numbers or medical histories into the Google search box? Come on, this is silly. "If someone is stupid enough to do that then they deserve whatever thye have coming to them. Yes, there are privacy issues but its not Bushes fault its Google's problem.

My letter to the AP today:
I have never written to you before but your disgustingly misleading and poorly written piece on Google and its response to the Attorney General on child porn amazed me.

Do you think that all child porn is a 1st Amendment issue that deserves public support? If you think that, then say that. Not by using the illustration of NSA eavesdropping on known al-Qaida terrorists overseas communications in this piece and then trying to equate the two?

I have to say, I have never been more disappointed in the US media then I have been in the last several years. You guys are not doing your jobs. If its an agenda that you guys want to promote, then set up a think tank and do it there, not in the popular press.

As far as I am concerned, you guys are not fighting for my freedom, but are limiting the freedom of discussion by slanting your news and promoting personal agendas. Shame on all of you.

My post on this: http://madjaymon.blogspot.com/2006/01/google-turns-down-request-for.html

Glen[zo] XXXX
I wonder if Google pays these people to write this stuff.

4 Comments:

At 8:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

During the war in Vietnam, someone said of the protestors that it was not that they loved peace less, but that they loved Ho Che Minn more.

Ditto the current crop of Bush hate mongers.

They love not truth less, they just hate Bush more.

 
At 11:28 PM, Blogger Faith-in-Capitalism said...

You say "Google may be concerned that legislation that limits the ability of children to view porn links may threaten or complicate Google's business."

Google is NOT considering child porn at all in this case. Google is questioning the legal right of the government to access it's fundamental business records. Period.

As this society lives with the internet (which is relatively young compared to our society and our laws as a whole), companies have the right to question the legality of the governments requests for information. The courts then set a precedent to deal with the issues at hand.

This administration has set many laws, such as the Patriot Act and the FABULOUS Health Savings Account, into motion. (The wire tapping reference in the original article refers to the PA. The writer did just not mention the PA by name. If you don't know anything about HSAs, you should. It is probably the best health care initiative to come out of Washington in decades.) And we as a society have the right (and plainly the duty) to not only examine those laws but to question them to maintain our freedoms -- WHETHER OR NOT a dem or rep wrote the law. This is all that Google is doing.

Your argument that the government needs the data to persue it's support of the child porn law is well founded. But that in and of itself does not require Google to turn over the data. In fact, I doubt that the subpoena mentions the REASON for the request; just what the request is.

And remember Child Porn is not only children VIEWING porn, but children PARTICIPATING or APPEARING TO PARTICIPATE in sexual activities. This is a good law started by the Clinton Admin supported by the Bush Admin.

BUT this is plainly a separate issue from Google's refusal to give the government the data. You state, "Or is Bush using the request for data in this case to somehow end run around privacy restrictions to somehow gain access to personal information of what is really anonymous Google users?" I would disagree that Google users are anonymous. Plainly, I do NOT KNOW if the users are anonymous since I don't have the data and I can't examine it. It is possible that the users are not anonymous. The Feds can't claim they are if they don't have the data to prove they are. Catch-22.

What is the MSM?

You state, "In fact, Google is probably more concerned about the commercial issues that the case presents to them rather than the non-existent issues of freedom of speech and privacy that the release of random non-traceable data risks." I disagree that being concerned about their own commercial issues is a non-existent privacy issue for the company. Google has the right to maintain privacy in it's business to protect proprietary information of it's business and to function as a business. Being concerned about commercial issues are the basis of capitalism and this in and of itself is not an evil.

You state, "So Google's privacy defense here rests on a very strict definition that even if the data has no personal information they won't release it since no one has the right to even know what kind of data the whole population of users accesses. Its seems a little flimsy to me." I disagree whole heartedly as propounded above.

You state, "If Google is secretly compiling this data on you, then that is the violation of privacy not the Government's desire to find out if children are inadvertently being exposed to pornography through innocent online searches." This is a fabulous point. How can a Google user know what is being compiled on them? When I go to Google, should I be told? I just went to the "About Gooogle" section. They do need a privacy statement and perhaps now they will have one. (They may have one, but it does not appear in their About Google page.)

Plainly, there's an issue with Child Pornography. If children are accessing porn through the web, how can that be restricted? Consider this: when I search the web, my computer does not know my age (as far as I know I have never filled out a profile in my computer that contained age and there is no internal analysis software that can determine that -- yet); there is no way the data provided by Google would give a persons age; what does the gov't expect to get from this data then if a users age is not stored there? They want a random sampling of where users are going regardless of age? How will that help them at all? These are good questions that we as citizens should ask.

Finally, you write, "I wonder if Google pays these people to write this stuff." This truly surprised me. Companies have the right to use the legal system to question subpoena without being accused of subversive activities in doing so. Are you suggesting that Google is Anti-Bush? It would be interesting to find out the politics of the board at Google. But, the reporter in question was paid, so your letter to AP was the way to go.

Personally, I think Google is a snotty company. But I don't believe companies are evil because they are trying to earn money or because they want to protect their revenue stream or because they question the legality of a subpeona. Still, I wouldn't be surprised if the government (in the form of Elliot Spitzer or some other political wanna bee) attacked Google in the near future.

 
At 11:41 PM, Blogger Faith-in-Capitalism said...

It angers me that Anonymous would compare Bush to Ho Che Minn! Comparing an administration to a murderer because the administration wants data is quite a stretch!

And claiming that anyone who questions or disagrees with a law or a request for a subpoena is a Bush hater is ridiculous! People fight laws all the time; that's how the legal system works.

Comparing the law to truth, now that is something that books are written on!

 
At 11:55 PM, Blogger Faith-in-Capitalism said...

And FURTHER MORE.... : )

The press tends to "infame" with it's writing. Not to report accurately, but to sell their product.

But that's just my opinion.

 

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