Court date set for Google lawsuit

Judge sets court date for Google's attempt to fend off Justice Department's subpoena for millions of search terms.

Google's attempt to fend off the government's request for millions of search terms will move to a federal court in San Jose, Calif., on Feb. 27.

U.S. District Judge James Ware on Thursday set the date for the highly anticipated hearing, which is expected to determine whether the U.S. Justice Department will prevail in its fight to force Google to help it defend an anti-pornography law this fall.

Although the Justice Department also demanded that Yahoo, Microsoft and America Online hand over similar records, Google was the only recipient that chose to fight the subpoena in court. After the spat became public last week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said: "This is important for the Department of Justice and we will pursue this matter."

The government's request has raised eyebrows among privacy advocates and members of Congress, some of whom fear it could open the door to future fishing expeditions. Rep. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said he would introduce legislation to curb records retained by Web sites, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, has asked Gonzales for details.

Ware also set a date of Feb. 6 for Google to file a legal brief with its arguments, and a Feb. 13 date for the Justice Department to submit its reply.

Ware is no stranger to technology cases. He heard the Sex.com case in 2001, a spam lawsuit in 1998, and a legal spat between RealNetworks and Microsoft in 2004.

Prosecutors are requesting a "random sampling" of 1 million Internet addresses accessible through Google's popular search engine, and a random sampling of 1 million search queries submitted to Google over a one-week period.

The request is part of the Justice Department's attempt to defend the constitutionality of the Child Online Protection Act. The law orders commercial Web sites to shield minors from materials that may be "harmful" to them. The American Civil Liberties Union claims it violates free expression rights.

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