Google Formally Refuses DOJ Data Demand

Internet search giant Google has officially refused to comply with a U.S. Department of Justice subpoena demanding Internet search data be turned over as part of a defense of the 1998 Child Online Protection Act (COPA). After lengthy negotiations, the Department of Justice demanded Google turn over one week’s worth of Internet search data as well as the URLs of one million randomly selected sites indexed by Google; Google’s refusal, formerly filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, says the demand is impractical, as well as a violation of its users’ privacy and the company’s trade secrets.

Google is the only major Internet company to stand against the government’s requests for data. Internet firms Microsoft and Yahoo have said they have complied with government subpoenas related to the COPA defense, although the companies did not specifically disclose the nature of the data they turned over.

A hearing on the DOJ motion compel Google to turn over the search data is scheduled for March 13 with U.S. District Judge James Ware.

Some privacy advocates laud Google’s stance not to turn over search data even as the company takes flak for censoring search results in the Chinese version of its search engine. Conservative and religious organizations have levelled criticism that Google is failing to assist the government in fighting online exploitation of children. Google says it shares the government’s concern regarding online material which may be harmful to minors, but argues its search algorithms change constantly, and a specific query entered today may produce results significantly different from the same query the day before.