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 toto 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, 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 thecase in 2001, a in 1998, and a 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. 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.