In the search for some really real new to put up on the site for discussion, I came across this story that has been circulating quite a bit in tech-savvy circles.
Apparently, the US Department of Justice has asked a federal court to force Google to comply with a request to turn over data regarding Internet searches over the past year. It's important to note that the DoJ is not requesting personal information. They are trying to determine general search patterns in order to assist them defending the constitutionality of the Child Online Protection Act: an act aimed at keeping pornography off of sites that are accessible to minors. It's also important to note that Yahoo has already complied with this request and MSN may or may not have but MSN has pledged to assist law enforcement whenever possible. Google is firmly opposed to complying with the request and has stood up to all legal action so far.
Google's is almost manic in the level of secrecy they have for their search engine. Parts of the engine like their custom file system are very publicly discussed. Google even presented a speech on it at a very prominent Computer Science conference (I think it was ASPLOS, but I could be wrong) about two years ago. Then there are things like actual search algorithms which Google is not only secretive about but Google also tends to contradict itself pretty regularly when giving a general idea of how it works. The information they collect as part other people's searches probably falls firmly under the secretive category even if we were to ignore the ethical issue at hand since that information is very likely used to assist Google in improving the quality of their searches.
The Google company motto is "Don't be evil." I wonder if it's more evil to help or hurt the cause of the DoJ here. What is the DoJ really going to gain with these search results? They're trying to prove the Constitutionality of a pornography law. For some reason the federal court is hung up on whether filters are more effective than statutory restrictions. Should that even matter when determining the Constitutionality of the statutory restrictions? On the other hand, what is Google going to gain by not complying with a request for anonymous information? Is Google merely using privacy as an excuse to block the efforts of the DoJ? Is Google putting their super secret search methods (which may well be the Coca-Cola recipe of the 21st Century) ahead of a law aimed at protecting minors from explicit content? You could make the case that such a move would be quite "evil."