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March 18, 2006

Spinning the Google Decision [3:10 pm]

A funny way of putting it: U.S. Is Denied Google Queries [pdf]

A federal judge Friday denied a Justice Department demand for access to some Internet search queries of Google Inc. users in a closely watched case testing the limits of online privacy.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge James Ware in San Jose was a victory for Google, which argued that handing over the records would violate the privacy of people who might scour the Internet with terms as diverse as “best-actor nominees,” “third trimester abortion” or “pipe bomb.”

Although Ware required Google to reveal some information about the websites in its database, he ordered the government to reimburse the Mountain View, Calif., company for the time and expense required to comply.

But for Google — a quirky dot-com with the corporate mantra “Don’t be evil” — the more important issue was whether it could restrict access to potentially revealing queries.

“We will always be subject to government subpoenas, but the fact that the judge sent a clear message about privacy is reassuring,” said Google’s associate general counsel, Nicole Wong. “What his ruling means is that neither the government nor anyone else has carte blanche when demanding data from Internet companies.”

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