War on Porn: Feds Want Google Data

Google boobiesNot to anyone’s surprise, the Bush administration is still trying to save us from evil scary porn, by reaming everyone of their 4th Amendment rights (once again). From The Mercury News article:

The Bush administration on Wednesday asked a federal judge to order Google to turn over a broad range of material from its closely guarded databases.

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.

In court papers filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Justice Department lawyers revealed that Google has refused to comply with a subpoena issued last year for the records, which include a request for 1 million random Web addresses and records of all Google searches from any one-week period.

The Mountain View-based search and advertising giant opposes releasing the information on a variety of grounds, saying it would violate the privacy rights of its users and reveal company trade secrets, according to court documents.

Slashdot also has a lively discussion: “Would it not be much simpler and far less invasive for them to just submit a bunch of queries themselves? Of course it would! There’s something more going on here that is not related to pr0n. The war on pr0n is a Trojan Horse to get them into the database.”

As for my own thoughts, I’ll leave it to the late comedian Bill Hicks, who once joked that there is actually no definition of porn, saying “any material devoid of content that induces sexual thoughts. So… every advertising campaign on TV. When I’m watching that double-mint commercial ‘double the pleasure — double the fun’ with those twins; I’m not thinking about gum, that’s for fucking sure.”

Also: don’t miss Hicks’s comedy bit on nanny-state protection against porn.

Thanks Rick!

35 Comments
  1. This is just another example of the government dangling a “benefit” in front of our eyes (hey, we’ll stop your kid from getting to see porn!) when in fact, they just want to get their claws on the database as a whole.

    Even if they just get access to searches on porn, they’ll eventually expand that power and look at everything (particularly to find drug users, gun owners, etc).

    Just like the patriot act, it takes an enormous public outcry to rid them off said powers once they get a taste for them.

    Anyway… enough doom and gloom… start downloading porn while you still can people! We can set up a nice black market and profit heavily :)

  2. If anyone is curious, that logo is actually from a few years back when I ribbed Google for the week of Dilbert logos. You can see them all here (the first day is kind of topical to this discussion)

  3. by the way, I think I’ve seen the google logo on this site before, but it still rocks.

    If only google had a sense of humor, they would use a similar logo for their reply to the white house.

  4. This scares the bejezus out of me because I know what I’ve typed into that little box in Google and I don’t want the government to know anything about it – no matter what their objectives are. The best way to get results from Google is to use broad terms like “build nukes” if you want to find articles written about countries wishing to build nuclear weapons. The government could easily interpret that to mean I want to build nuclear weapons.

    They say it’s purely to find out about search results related to porn, but I seriously doubt they’ll limit their search to finding the percentage of porn related sites returned.

  5. What’s next? The federal government telling me I can’t have sex with my wife without clothes on? Or maybe me just thinking about my naked wife will get me 10 years in the federal pen? But they won’t pass a law protecting me from BUBBA in prision…..hmmm?

  6. Chris,

    They won’t help you after Katrina either (no money in that!) but they will certainly help themselves, i mean help us by invading Iraq and getting those oil fields, i mean ‘terr-ists’

  7. Certain things dont bother me when i dont think they will be able to accomplish the task. They will never rid the internet of porn, its about as likely of getting rid of every terrorist on the planet. As fast as they can delete 1 porn site 10 more have probably been made in its place. As for them looking into what everyone is searching for i could careless. But i guess if your one of the people out there doing something wrong this could scare you. Those who have nothing to hide, hide nothing so if you dont want your searches revealed then you must be doing something shady.

  8. The government should just start their OWN search engine and monitored the results.

    Not that they have any business being involved with internet search or anything like that. I was just thinking it’d be more open, honest, ethical, legal, big brotherish, nanny statish, etc.

    Go Google. If anyone has the power and funds to fight them, it’s Google.

  9. Oje,

    I think you miss the point. It’s not about having something to hide, it’s about the government sticking it’s nose where it doesn’t belong. If it thinks it’s OK to gather peoples search records (and probably make broad assumptions about why a search was made and what they were “really” looking for) then they probably won’t have a problem probing further into your personal privacy. If they were actually interested in what records are returned by Google they could, as Slashdot suggested, just do the searches themselves. They’re clearly lookin for something more than how many porn sites Google has in their database.

  10. Off the top of my head here, but doesn’t much of the internet traffic pass through government owned computer system? I thought I remembered reading something about other nations being weary about the U.S. controlling these system… I’ll check if nobody remembers. Can’t search right, I’m actually typing this in a meeting. :) Yeah, it’s one of THOSE meetings.

  11. My understanding is that ICANN, a (in theory) independent governing board set up by U.S. controls the domain servers that direct domain names (i.e. hammeroftruth.com) to the proper IP address (i.e. 209.59.188.98 – it’s actual IP BTW). I’m not a network expert so I’m not sure to what scope they have over ALL internet traffic (like if somebody goes to the IP directly do they control that?). The information that they would have to parse through to get the same information they want from Google would be incredible though. Considering how much traffic goes through their servers I doubt they could easily make those determinations (a Google search is much more complicated than the word you type in and the text you get back and if you compound that by billions of requests a day your talking a lot of information).

  12. Do libertarians believe child porn is OK? There are indications the ACLU thinks so. Should it be legalized and unencumbered? I suspect many libertarians believe child porn should be legal and unregulated. Correct me if I am wrong.

    What about the children? I know some of you consider child porn a victimless crime. Aren’t the children that are part of the porn victims?

    I bet you that believe child porn is OK are too gutless to say so for fear of prosecution and being ostracized by society. What about it, you willing to admit your true beliefs?

  13. Julian,

    I don’t know of anyone (ACLU included) that approves of child porn. What are these indications?

  14. http://www.aclu.org/info/18852res20040107.html#3_4
    Here’s the ACLU position. Being that they usually defend the constitution, they fought for NAMBLA’s right to speech. The ACLU fights for everyone’s rights.They defend Nazis,Communists,NAMBLA, the KKK, and anyone else we fear to admit has just as much a right to speak as us. Being that they defend fundamentalist Christians (biblically,not politically) such as myself, it flatly denies the argument that they are merely a liberal special interest group.Hope I helped.

  15. I agree with Josh Davis. I doubt that the government would use such valuable information just for a pornography law. Why have some anti-war activists been classified as “terrorists?” Is advocating peace between people now an act of violence ?!?!?

    “First they came for the Jews
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for the Communists
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a Communist.
    Then they came for the trade unionists
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a trade unionist.
    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left
    to speak out for me.”

    by Pastor Martin Niemöller

  16. We are incrementaly losing our moral compass when a group like NAMBLA or any group that advocates the exploitation of children is allowed the freedom to even speak of it.

    I do not believe advocating that type of behavior is freedom of speech. It is advocating criminal activity that threatens the very fabric of our society.

    Libertarians will never be able to convince the vast majority of the population that it is to anyone’s well being to support the right for groups like NAMBLA to have any place in our society.

    I can project this to anyone or group that would enable that type of agenda including the ACLU. This is precisely the reason I have a problem with the ACLU.

    I am beginning to believe that libertarians that visit this site lean far to the left on civil liberties that they border on anarchism or are even anarchists.

    It is possible that the Libertarian Party is being hijacked by anarchists as it appears to be so on this blog site.

    No order = chaos

  17. Great assumption Julian. I think that we started as anarchists, and developed into something a bit more palatable.

  18. Julian: So you don’t think the world would be a great place with NAMBLA members roaming the streets with babies tucked under their arms?

    Gee, surprise… nobody here does either.

    But (and forgive the pun), don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Just because libertarians are in favor of a liberal society does not mean we are anarchists in favor of child porn. In fact, nothing about this DOJ case is about child porn… it’s an usurption of everyone’s 4th Amendment rights in order to protect children FROM porn, which itself was ruled against.

    So two wrongs… lean to the right.

  19. Having worked in the porn biz not long ago, I can say the industry polices itself very well and actively reports illegal activity to the feds. If there’s an industry that’s probably above 90% libertarian in philosophy, it’s them. They conform to a boatload of laws from making sure “models” are over 18, to keeping under-age kids off their sites (this is next to impossible though, since anyone can just lie about their age).

    Hell, even Mike Badnarik’s presidential campaign site was hosted at a porn farm that gave him a good deal (little known fact).

    But again, this is NOT about child porn… it’s about the government trying to act as a parental unit and tell us that we don’t know how to raise our kids. Hello… the Internet is for adults and any parent that doesn’t install filtering software themselves can only fault themselves for what is akin to letting your kid roam the streets of Amsterdam at 2am.

  20. uhhh hmmmm. I’ll take exception to what VanDyke said. Anarchists oppose child porn, too. There is a victim – the child.

  21. ****************kid alert*************** having slept with a porn star, I know that —nevermind—- the whole thing is wasted….

  22. The responsiblity of filtering Children Online time lies with the parents, not the government. We know how fast sites pop up and then disappear out here. The government is little deterent and is only using this, I feel, to break into peoples electronic privacy, get their foot in the door.

    Truth be known, I’m pissed that such logs even exist. I feel like I’m being violated and my online activity is being tracked by the largest spyware out there. The Bush Administration.

    This is only the start of the Governments intrusion to the Internet.

    KEEP THE NET FREE!

  23. Julian: I feel that your desire to use police power to control what people say is far more troubling than anything NAMBLA might say. If NAMBLA gets to say whatever they want, at least we can tell who they are.

  24. updated for modern times:

    “First they came for the Child molesters
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a Child molester.
    Then they came for the drug dealers
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a drug dealer.
    Then they came for the Pro-Choice activists
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a Pro-Choice activist.
    Then they came for the gun owners
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a gun owner.
    Then they came for the political dissenters
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a political dissenter.
    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left
    to speak out for me.”

  25. Update:

    Google called the Bush administration’s request for data on Web searches as “so uninformed as to be nonsensical” in papers filed in San Jose federal court Friday, arguing that turning over the information would expose its trade secrets and violate the privacy of its users.

    The 21-page brief filed by the Mountain View search giant angrily dissected the government’s claim that the search results would produce useful evidence regarding child pornography.

    The Justice Department asked a federal judge to force Google to turn over the data last month, after Google refused to comply with an earlier subpoena. Government lawyers said the searches would help it defend the Child Online Protection Act, which was struck down as unconstitutional. The law is designed to keep children from sexually explicit material on the Internet.