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September 3, 2006

Google Turns Over Data About orkut Users

Google is about to do a small evil for a greater good. Google has agreed to turn over data to Brazilan Government about some orkut users "that encourage racism, pedophilia and homophobia". This way, they comply with a Brazilian court order.

Google says the differences between this case and the request from the Department of Justice are the scale and the purpose.

It should be noted that US Government wanted that information "to make its defense of the Child Online Protection Act, a federal law designed to keep children from sexually explicit content on the Internet". At least, that's what they said.

And unlike DoJ's request for anonymous data, Brazilian Government wants specific information: "The Brazilian authorities are particularly interested in Internet protocol addresses with time and date stamps that can help trace a specific user. Registration information Google could provide includes names and e-mail addresses."

I don't defend the criminals, but Google should remember there's a thin line between being compliant to Government's request and breaching user's privacy. When Google has strong profiles for its users, I know some people interested to mine that information.


  1. This is a very slipper slope for Google...

    While I believe the wretched people that are commiting these acts should be caught, I have reservations about the future. Society looks down on thier actions today, so it might be easy to dismiss the fact that Google is giving away private data in the name of protecting the public.

    The issue is what will be deemed as "handing over personal data to protect the public" in the future. These are nervous times we live in, with terrorism on everyones minds. What may be looked at as innocent and non-threatening today, could be the scourge of the planet in the future. Those that are caught up in that web, may have their privacy at risk, again in the eyes of protection.

    There is a chink in the armor, and the hard stance of protecting privacy. A little Evil has been done? Nay, I think the evil is only starting to be unleashed as precedent has been set.

  2. They poll isn't working at the moment, it shows this error:

    Poll not available
    Unauthorized poll code use
    Please contact site owner

  3. I don't see any evil done in this instance.

    When the average Joe or Jane do a Google search, nobody knows if the query is of objectional content, and in this case he or she should be given the benefit of the doubt, and granted the privacy.

    However, when the orkut users in question "encourage racism, pedophilia and homophobia," there shouldn't be any delay in turning over the information. Privacy policies are supposed to protect the common innocent person from Big Brothers' prying eyes, not shielding criminals from law enforcement. You can't tell for sure if there is bad intent behind Google searches with queries "how to build a bomb" or "killing the president with antifreeze ingestion" (for all I know, it could be an author trying to write an interesting novel), but the alarm should be sounding off when someone advocates hate and intolerance over the internet (I doubt that the "encouragements" were meant as a joke).

  4. Jason, do you think I encourage racism by showing this image?

  5. The issue is the understanding and perception of what is criminal,racist, and even innocent will change over time. Once the practice of doling out private information begins, where does it end?

  6. Regarding image: Context as a blog comment aside, no, but if you added other statements such as "Long Live Apartheid" then it would probably be a yes.

    I can't say that I've seen the profiles (or whatever led to the investigation) of the orkut users in question, but I am more than inclined to think that it began with more than a couple of mere images.

  7. The poll inst working. I agree with Googles decision. Ionut, I dont think you are encouraging racism by showing this image, but that is not the point in Orkut.

  8. I'm testing this polling system. It has 12 votes, so it must work for some people. It's in beta, though :)

    Regarding racism and the rest of the problems, do you think people that have these opinions should be forced to shut up? I don't think you solve anything by doing that. On the contrary, you encourage other people to disobey.

  9. Here's a message included in user's homepage:

    "A friendly reminder: We all love so help us keep it clean. Please use the service responsibly and be proactive in reporting abusive profiles and communities. Illegal content will not be tolerated and will be removed.
    View our Terms of Service.

    Stay beautiful
    - orkut team"

  10. The Brazilian authorities know what they want and are asking Google to help them to that end. The U.S. didn't know what they were looking for, they just knew they wanted information.

    It is a thin line, but I believe that Google will be able to walk it.

  11. Poll isn't working (Opera 9.01):(
    But often a little evil is origin for big...

  12. I am not still clear here, real or unreal crimes, I am wondering whether Google would have given the details if Orkut is very popular in USA and used by larger number of people. I think they would have refused then, because of many valid reasons like "law", "rights" etc etc, but truely it would have created a lot of heat in America and everybody would have opposed this move and it would have led to bad reputation to Google. So the stand might have been different, or may be not. I am not clear.

  13. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

  14. I completely agree with most other views here: while criminals have to be caught, we have to be very careful in "standarizing" some procedures to catch them which can be clearly damaging the individuals' privacy rights.

    Having said that, I wonder about the following:
    FACT 1-- many (most?) users registering in services such as Google, MS, Yahoo, etc. never use their real name/data.
    FACT 2-- wireless communication and a vast majority of unprotected points of access equals "difficulty for authorities to prove who has used what when"
    FACT 3-- many underground pedophiles are not the average PC user... use of proxies, IP stealth soft, etc. are in place (otherwise they would have been caught by now!)
    So, are these operations going to really produce justified results??

  15. ok... just stopping one phedophile who's not so smart using a PC would justify it, but still...

    (I'm the above poster!)

  16. To the anonymous above--

    Are you sure they are all facts? (Some verfication would be nice.) I'm especially dubious about "Fact 3"; remember the Department of Homeland Security guy who got arrested (iirc) back in April? He wasn't too tech-savvy.

  17. My congratulations to Google for turning over those data to the Brazilian Government.

    Privacy is good. But not in these cases.
    Every rule has exceptions.

  18. I hate to see Google going this way and turning over "private" information about its users. It's wrong.

  19. hey, i hav no option in starting a poll for my community as i am the owner of my community...Anyone could help me to do this by

  20. its not too good for google to give users information to anyone else either the case with serious.

  21. not good...wheres the 'do no evil'?..


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