MSNBC.com reports that Google is rebuffing the US goverment’s efforts to get data on what terms are searched:

SAN FRANCISCO – Google Inc. is rebuffing the Bush administration’s demand for a peek at what millions of people have been looking up on the Internet’s leading search engine — a request that underscores the potential for online databases to become tools for government surveillance.

It should be pointed out that the US government’s request very specifically, excludes personally identifiable information. The same MSNBC.com article points out that:

…the government says it isn’t seeking any data that ties personal information to search requests…

So I can’t see that any privacy issues are in view here. They just want the data about what is being searched for, because they wonder what the percentages are for searches for child pornography. They want to know how significant the problem is.

This doesn’t seem like a bad thing.

But when the Chinese government asked Google to restrict searches in China and block sites that the Chinese government doesn’t like–sites that are critical of Beijing–Google happily complied:

Google’s recently launched news service in China doesn’t display results from websites blocked by that country’s authorities, raising prickly questions for an online search engine that has famously promised to “do no evil”.

Dynamic Internet Technology, a research firm striving to defeat online censorship, conducted tests that found Google omits results from the government-banned sites if search requests are made through computers connecting to the internet in China.

Steered by an identical search request, computers with a United States connection retrieved results from the sites blocked by China.

“That’s a problem because the Chinese people need to know there are alternative opinions from the Chinese government and there are many things being covered up by the government,” said Bill Xia, Dynamic’s chief executive. “Users expect Google to return anything on the internet. That’s what a search engine does.”

Mr Xia suspects Google is co-operating with the Chinese government’s censorship efforts to smooth the way for expansion plans that could help the Mountain View-based company boost future profits.

Why is it that people will protest freely in our democracy, stand on “principle” but lose their principles when they are in a totalitarian dictatorship? Oh, yeah. dictatorships shoot people who protest. Google appears guilty of gross hypocrisy. They are not principled, they just know if they don’t do what the Chinese government says, they’ll lose that market; but if they don’t do what the US government wants, they’ll lose nothing. They aren’t alone, of course. Microsoft took down a Chinese blog, and Yahoo turned over data that led to the conviction of a Chinese journalist. But I’m sure their principles would kick back in if the US government needed something.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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