New developments in Google/Justice struggle

Google filed a strongly worded criticism of the Justice Dept.'s subpoena and the ACLU warned that if it is granted, they will also subpoena the information.

End of the week activity in Gonzales v. Google. News.com reports that Google had strong words for the Justice Dept. as they filed a motion to fend off a government subpoena of search terms and URLs.

In a strongly worded legal brief filed with a federal judge in San Jose, Calif., the search company accused prosecutors of a "cavalier attitude," saying they were "uninformed" about how search engines work and the importance of protecting Google's confidential information from disclosure.

And in the aftermath of a congressional tongue-lashing, Google is taking pains to describe their opposition in terms of privacy and government intrusion.

"The privacy of Google users matters, and Google has promised to disclose information to the government only as required by law," the brief says. "The privacy and anonymity of the service are major factors in the attraction of users--that is, users trust Google to do right by their personal information."

Another reason for objecting to the subpoena, Google says in its brief authored by Al Gidari and Lisa Delehunt at the law firm of Perkins Coie, is that government lawyers might share the information with the FBI for criminal prosecution--say, of people who typed in search terms like "marijuana cultivation" or "directv hacking."

 And in other news, the ACLU stated that the group might well issue their own subpoena for Google's search terms if the government subpoena is granted.

A legal brief the ACLU filed with a federal judge in San Jose, Calif., on Friday says its request would seek to learn how Google's search engines operate, how Google serves up links in response to queries and whether there is "any way to distinguish between queries generated by actual individuals and queries generated by artificial programs or software."

The civil liberties group, which characterizes itself as a staunch defender of privacy, says it is not eager to expose details about Google's inner workings and the habits of its users. The ACLU says it has "no need or desire to obtain any of this information from Google." But, the group warns, if the government gets the information, it would have little choice.

Hearing on the motions is scheduled for March 13.