Standing its ground against what it believes to be an unjustifiable request, search engine giant Google is refusing to comply with a subpoena issued by the US Department of Justice to supply information on how users are using its search facility.
Recent media reports have stated that the US Department of Justice subpoenaed a number of major internet search sites including AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft, but that Google was the only one that had refused to supply the information.
Google is reportedly defending its actions by claiming that the government could use this information to reveal sensitive information about its users. Its refusal has sparked a debate over whether or not it is ethical to allow law enforcement agencies access to the extensive data possessed by some search engines or whether it is an infringement of civil liberties.
The government has argued that the request for information is motivated by efforts to regulate online pornography. It explained that it would use the data supplied by the search engines to determine whether or not software was effective at screening out such material. Its argument falls in line with the suggestion that the Department of Justice is attempting to resurrect the 1998 Child Online Protection Act, which a Supreme Court decision blocked in 2004.
The outcome of this debate could have serious implications for the future status of major internet companies and will no doubt be followed with great interest.