Google, Feds Battle over Customer Info

The Internet search provider says it's fighting a Bush administration request for information about its customers' searches. Watch out content filter makers, a big test is coming.

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Internet search giant Google Inc. confirmed Thursday that it is resisting a Bush administration request to review Google customer search habits.

The administration, via the U.S. Department of Justice, has asked Google for several days worth of activity at its main search site.

The million or so queries the government seeks are to serve as raw material to test the effectiveness of commercially-available Web content filters, according to legal documents seen by eWEEK.

/zimages/4/28571.gifTo read eWEEK commentary on the COPA law, click here.

The test results, plus an examination of how often a Google user encounters porn, will serve as evidence in an upcoming trial that could breath new life into a child online privacy law.

A court struck down the law, known as COPA, in 2004 because of concerns over how far-reaching it was.

"Google had lengthy discussions to try to resolve this, but were not able to and we intend to resist … vigorously," Google associate general counsel Nicole Wong said, in a statement.

The combination of child privacy and porn, Internet search giants and the Bush administration could have major effects on corporate technology buyers, sellers and users.

For one, the review of Web content filters planned by the government could leave an indelible stamp on companies that make such products.

Also, should the COPA law be revived, Web page operators, Internet content providers and other Web interests would also have a new headache on their hands. These enterprises would have to ensure, as the COPA law dictates, that minors are not exposed to anything that could be deemed "harmful."

/zimages/4/28571.gifTo read more about Web content safeguards, click here.

Also, knowing that Google can be forced to turn over sensitive customer information is sure to put a damper on the enthusiasm of its consumers, both the general public and the enterprises buying Googles search hardware and services.

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