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January 24, 2006

Microsoft defends response to porn probe

Posted by David Hunter at 9:17 PM ET.

After the furor last week about Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo providing search engine data in response to a Justice Department subpoena in an Internet pornography case, Ken Moss, Microsoft’s General Manager – MSN Web Search, defended the action at MSN Search’s WebLog. Excerpt:

Over the summer we were subpoenaed by the DOJ regarding a lawsuit. The subpoena requested that we produce data from our search service. We worked hard to scope the request to something that would be consistent with this principle. The applicable parties to the case received this data, and the parties agreed that the information specific to this case would remain confidential. Specifically, we produced a random sample of pages from our index and some aggregated query logs that listed queries and how often they occurred. Absolutely no personal data was involved.

With this data you:

- CAN see how frequently some query terms occurred.
- CANNOT look up an IP and see what they queried
- CANNOT look for users who queried for both “TERM A” and “TERM B”.

At MSN Search, we have strict guidelines in place to protect the privacy of our customers data, and I think you’ll agree that privacy was fully protected. We tried to strike the right balance in a very sensitive matter.

Based on the comments to the post and subsequent news reports, a lot of people weren’t mollified.

Meanwhile, Chris Kraeuter and Rachel Rosmarin at Forbes have a theory about Why Google Won’t Give In:

The compromise the Department of Justice has worked out with Google’s rivals calls for the search engines to let the government see how often certain search terms were used, but won’t let it look up specific Internet Protocol addresses to what individuals looked for.

That alone could prove embarrassing enough for Google. A public disclosure of exactly how much pornography is on the Internet and how often people look for it–the two data points that will result from fulfilling the government’s subpoena–could serve to make the Internet look bad. And Google, as its leading search engine, could look the worst.

None of the search engines make a full disclosure of how much porn users are looking at. When America Online lists its most popular searches, for instance, porn references are scrubbed out. But Nielsen/NetRatings says that porn sites attracted 38 million unique viewers in December–or a quarter of all Internet surfers.

More details by following the link.



Filed under Coopetition, General Business, Google, Governmental Relations, Legal, Privacy, Public Relations

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