September 03, 2006

Google Giving Brazil Personal Data From Orkut - Misleading Explanation

In Google to Give Data To Brazilian Court (Washington Post), describing Google turning over identifying data to the government of Brazil, the following statements are made:

The difference, it says, is scale and purpose.

The Justice Department wanted Google's entire search index, billions of pages and two months' worth of queries, for a broad civil case Brazil, by contrast, is looking for information in specific cases involving Google's social networking site, Orkut.

"What they're asking for is not billions of pages," said Nicole Wong, Google associate general counsel. "In most cases, it's relatively discrete -- small and narrow."

There are some very wrong and misleading aspects in the above paragraphs.

1) The Justice Department went down to 50,000 URLs and 5,000 queries:

"First, the subpoena requested "[a]ll URL's that are available to be located to a query on your company's search engine as of July 31, 2005." [...] In negotiations with Google, this request was later narrowed to a "multi-stage random" sampling of one million URLs in Google's indexed database. As represented to the Court at oral argument, the Government now seeks only 50,000 URLs from Google's search index. Second, the government also initially sought "[a]ll queries that have been entered on your company's search engine between June 1, 2005 and July 31, 2005 inclusive." (Subpoena at 4.) Following further negotiations with Google, the Government narrowed this request to all queries that have been entered on the Google search engine during a one-week period. During the course of the present Miscellaneous Action, the Government further restricted the scope of its request, and now represents that it only requires 5,000 entries from Google's query log in order to meet its discovery needs. Despite these modifications in the scope of the subpoena, Google maintained its objection to the Government's requests."

2) The information was being sought for a statistical study, and the data would be under a protective order, and not intended to identify any particular person (even if some identification would in theory be possible, nobody was going to try to do it). In contrast, the information being sought here is to identify and hopefully convict specific people of criminal charges.

Of course, Google is in a tough position here, some of the crimes alleged are very serious. This IS the sort of problematic action that people projected onto the DOJ's relatively insignificant study. But it's quite an odious spin to trivialize it as "small and narrow"!

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on September 03, 2006 10:59 AM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

Subscribe with Bloglines      Subscribe in NewsGator Online  Google Reader or Homepage