Google and the US Department of Justice will clash in court on 27 February over Google’s refusal to hand over search data about it customers.
The Department of Justice wants the random data – including websites requested and user search terms – to help the Bush administration introduce laws to make it harder to visit pornography websites without first having a username and password.
The government claims that ISP and desktop filtering software is not good enough to stop minors getting onto the home pages of porn sites, and wants the search information from Google to help illustrate its case.
After being asked to deliver similar information, Microsoft’s MSN, Yahoo and AOL all complied with the request. Google was alone among the major search portals in refusing.
Privacy advocates are backing Google in its stance, even though the government maintains that the information it wants would not identify individual surfers.
But the fear among the privacy lobby and many users is that if the government can force Google to hand over this information it would open the floodgates to further, more intrusive demands.