With Feds, Google Balks, But Microsoft Talks

Internet search giant Google made news last week for resisting a US Department of Justice (DOJ) subpoena demanding that it turn over user search activity on its service, but Microsoft has decided to work with the feds. In a blog posting late last week, MSN Search General Manager Ken Moss admitted that Microsoft turned over MSN Search user search activity logs to the DOJ. The company joins AOL and Yahoo! in agreeing to the legal demand.

"Let me start with this core principle statement: privacy of our customers is non-negotiable and something worth fighting to protect," Moss writes. "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."

Moss writes that the data Microsoft sent to the DOJ reveals only how frequently certain query terms appeared. It doesn't provide IP addresses that might be used to identify users who searched for certain terms, and it doesn't identify users who performed two or more specific queries.

The question, of course, is whether this subpoena signals a downward spiral toward decreased privacy in the United States. According to Microsoft, it doesn't. But privacy experts are concerned less with this specific event than with its implications for the future. Clearly, it's something to watch.

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