Yahoo Turned Over Search Data to US Attorneys
In what is turning out to be a major issue of search engine privacy concerns, Yahoo has acknowledged that the company handed over search data which was requested via Bush administration supoena. The administration is trying to use such search info to revive the 1998 Child Online Protection Act, which was rejected by the U.S Supreme Court.
InformationWeek reports that Yahoo did acknowledge the handing over of search data to the U.S. government attorneys, but that data did not include any personal information.
“In our opinion, this is not a privacy issue,” Yahoo spokeswoman Mary Osako told InformationWeek. “We complied on a limited basis and did not provide any personally identifiable information.”
Google, on the other hand, refused to hand over private search engine usage data to government lawyers last year, which is refreshing to Google users and its opposite actions when compared to Yahoo may start a debate on which engine is more understanding of user concerns. Greg Sterling of the Kelsey Group quotes “Google, to some, was starting to look like Big Brother; now it can say it is defending privacy against Big Brother. Indeed, government spying on private citizens’ communications means privacy is once again on the front burner. But this dispute isn’t just about privacy; it’s also about the First Amendment and potentially chilling free speech.”
Erick Schonfeld of Business 2.0 Blog adds “The issue here is whether Google or any other public search engine that records our clickstreams can be used by the government to spy on the online activities of American citizens carte blanche. It’s almost as if, having failed with its Total Information Awareness initiative of a few years ago, the government is now trying to turn Google and the other search engines into a giant surveillance database to use any way it wishes.”
More on the 1998 Child Online Protection Act from the AP : “1998 Child Online Protection Act requiring adults to use access codes or register with a site before receiving adult material violated free speech. The court also ruled that filtering software was adequate to protect children. Administration lawyers are hoping that the search data will help convince a Pennsylvania federal court that technology is doing an inadequate job.”