Google Did Good? Or Google Protecting Its Business?

january 23, 2006

I had originally slated a different word for "Business" in the title, but figured I'd be more polite. Earlier, I commended Google for standing up to the US government when the Bush administration asked for access to its search database. The media continues to bash Yahoo! and MSN for giving into the Bush administration -- though Yahoo! has come out and clearly said that there are no privacy issues with the release of the information. What is an interesting spin on things though is that Google may not be doing all of this to protect you. Rather, as John Battelle points out, Google maybe doing this to cover their own ass (oh look, there's the word I was going to use in the title). "Remember how slippery both Yahoo and Google got when we tried to figure out exactly how many documents were in their indexes? Well, turns out, that's pretty much what the DOJ is trying to do as well. Hence, Google's defense on a 'trade secrets' basis." Apparently, from the motion the DOJ filed to get Google to comply with the original subpoena:

The subpoena asks Google to produce an electronic file containing '[a]ll URL's that are available to be located through a query on your company's search engine as of July 31 2005.
So, should I be jaded and say that Google is a big company and could give a crap about your privacy and this whole "Do no evil" thing? Or should I give Google the benefit of the doubt, and say that they are really fighting the government because they care about you? If Yahoo! and MSN are willing to give up the numbers, why isn't Google? Does this action show that Google's search index is smaller those of Yahoo! and MSN? Thanks to JR for heads up on the Battelle article.