free html hit counter Update On Google and The Spooks - John Battelle's Search Blog

Update On Google and The Spooks

By - November 03, 2006


A great dialog has been occurring in the comments of this followup post on Google and the CIA (Original post here). Google’s official response was brief (along the lines of ‘oh puhhhlleeease!’), and one of the commentators asked if I would shoot Google a follow up question, to wit:

“Has Google released search-related information to any branch of the government, or government subcontractors?”

I sent this query to the fellow who works on these issues for Google communications. I expected his reply to be predictable – Google has to follow the law after all – but here it is for your benefit:

As you know, we comply with valid legal processes such as subpoenas but do not discuss the details of these requests publicly. Related to Steele’s assertions, we provide our enterprise systems to government agencies but there is no data sharing. These relationships are the same as with our customers in the private sector – they plug the appliance in and it provides search for their Intranet or website. The point of the statement we provided was to convey that neither responding to valid legal processes or selling search appliances are anything that could even be remotely interpreted as being “in bed with the CIA.”

What can we take away from all this? Well, I think it’s a good bet that Google is getting plenty of “valid legal requests,” but it won’t verify that it does. In fact, under Patriot, it would break the law to do so. This is the shit I have been on about for a very, very long time.

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6 thoughts on “Update On Google and The Spooks

  1. emmanuel says:

    Ps.i would like to know how long will it take us to understand,we have to live Iraq………for better? The mission has failed and we have to get out now!

  2. kid mercury says:

    john — thanks for your diligence in following up and reporting on this matter, i’m sure many people appreciate your journalistic integrity in reporting and following up on an issue that most industry blogs/publications are too cowardly to comment on or too naive to view as newsworthy. so thanks a lot.

    while many are quick to dismiss it as trivial and rumor-mongering, anyone familiar with the history of the CIA knows that this could turn very, very ugly and that the CIA has a long history of using private corporations to accomplish its objectives (often to get stuff done that they don’t want to get caught doing — see ex-CIA officer victor marchetti’s book the CIA and the cult of intelligence for a detailed account of such activities).

    i find it a bit worrisome that google has not commented about this at all directly on any of their countless blogs — isn’t that what blogs are for? so that they can communicate directly with their audience rather than communicating through you? commenting through you will raise some eyebrows because it allows them to blame you if in fact they are lying (just as the CIA can blame google if they ever get caught, i.e. plausible deniability).

    anyway, thanks again for your ongoing coverage, i hope if you come across more info you will continue to share.

  3. kid mercury says:

    thanks a lot for continuing to follow up on this issue.

  4. Yong Bakos says:

    Thanks for posing the followup question and post John.

    To me, the updated answer from google is “yes,” flavored with the traditional pr ‘turnaround’ and ‘spin’ of providing irrelevant statements comparing products/services provided to the commercial sector vs. what we’re really asking, about which google does not ‘discuss publicly.’

    Have you read an old, hard-to-find book called Privacy and Freedom? If you have time, check it out.

  5. Thanks for the update. Google has to protect its users’ privacy and keep a clean image to keep its market position.

  6. wfeather says:

    “Has Google released search-related information to any branch of the government, or government subcontractors?”

    Wrong question. Has Google shared any of their proprietary algorithms with the government so that the NSA can make better use of the data they’ve already collected and stored?