What did you Google two years ago?

Steve Tripoli Jun 1, 2006


The Justice Department wants a little something from you and your search engine. The Attorney General and the head of the FBI have been meeting with Google and AOL. Internet service providers, too. Verizon and Comcast, specifically.

The Feds want those companies to keep track of what you’re looking for on the Web. And it wants them to hold onto the data for two years to help fight terrorism and child pornography they say.

One more thing, fearless Internet user, this might be a costly endeavor. And no one’s saying who’s going to pay for it. Marketplace’s Steve Tripoli reports.
STEVE TRIPOLI: The Justice Department says it doesn’t want what’s in your e-mails. It just wants your Internet service providers, the so-called ISPs, to record your e-mail and Web-searching traffic. That doesn’t pass muster with Jim Harper of the free-market Cato Institute.

JIM HARPER: Deputizing private sector entities like ISPs into the law enforcement business is a perversion of the way our society is designed. It is, I think, a violation of the spirit of the 4th Amendment.

That’s the constitutional amendment that protects Americans against unreasonable search and seizure. The government argues that the war on terror and child pornography make this monitoring necessary. Lawyer Lee Tien of the advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation says civil liberties and crime busting don’t need to be mutually exclusive.

LEE TIEN: I think the government has a tendency to always try to put those in diametric opposition. We think that’s just a false dichotomy.

The government and Google tangled over information on Google customers’ searches earlier this year. Google resisted the request but lost in court. Microsoft and AOL chose to cooperate. Google couldn’t be reached for comment on the new requests today.

Meanwhile, the US Internet Industry Association is on record worrying about how any new record-keeping will be paid for. The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Lee Tien says the costs cut many ways.

TIEN: And not just because of the costs of storage but the costs of management and the costs of responding to any kinds of requests for data.

There’s no word yet of any discussion about who’ll pick up the tab. Meaning that those who don’t like this whole idea may find themselves not only under watch at the government’s request, but paying for the privilege.

I’m Steve Tripoli for Marketplace.

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