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Anders Bylund’s Interesting Question

PoliticsTechnologyLast week, the story of Google, the Department of Justice and the conflict over a request for search engine data touched off a minor firestorm. At issue was the government request for search term data and Google’s refusal to comply. That refusal led DOJ to request court enforcement of the request.

All of this led some to ask if other ISPs had received similar requests, and if so, whether they had complied. It turns out they had. Anders Bylund has a good account of their replies, but buried in his post is the real question people should be asking.

In all three instances, the search companies were adamant that they did not share information that could be traced back to users. The question is, were they still in the wrong to comply?

It’s a fascinating question on many levels, but probably the most interesting is what this says about the hypocrisy of our government.

I’ve posted before on the release of sensitive user data by MSN and Yahoo. There is a Congressional appetite to impose punitive measures on companies that comply with inquireies from dictatorial nations into the behavior of people online. They oppose the government having the right to police free speech and content of the internet.

I wonder if that legislation would be extended to prohibit release of sensitive user data to our own government? Should it cover the release of information that isn’t identifiable with a specific person, but could still be used to profile people by the things they search and read online?

Congress, in it’s zeal to protect the citizens of foreign countries, thinks the collection of such data by the government is a bad thing. Where are they on the protection of our right to privacy? Will they prevent our government from spying on us? They haven’t exactly done a bang up job on that so far. Let’s hope they’ll grant us the same protections their extending to the Chinese.

Written by Michael Turk