The US Department of Justice (DOJ) and lawyers for Internet search
giant Google will face off in federal court today, with the DOJ trying
to force Google to open up its search records as part of an ongoing
federal investigation. The DOJ argues that the records it wants will
not violate anyone's privacy, as Google has asserted, because the
information doesn't identify any individuals.

In August 2005, the DOJ requested this information from Google and
several of its rivals, including AOL (part of Time Warner),
Microsoft/MSN, and Yahoo!. All but Google complied. In a late 2005
statement, Google said that the submission of those records would
violate users' privacy and damage the trust it shares with its
customers. Google is also concerned that the records could expose trade
secrets that might reveal to competitors how its search engine service
works internally.

You might wonder how Google makes its decisions to fight some cases and
not others. The DOJ is attempting to measure the effectiveness of the
Child Online Protection Act, a law that shields children from
explicitly sexual material on the Internet. So although Google had no
problem censoring its search engine in order to remain in the crucial
Chinese market, it's refused to help US law enforcement officials fight
sexual predators.

Obviously, the issues are a little more complex than this. But I find
Google's decision to fight this request a bit bizarre, especially when
it had no problem bowing to China, an egregious human rights violator.