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Feds suggest 21-day deadline for Google subpoena

Justice Department says it needs data as quickly as possible, asks judge to set 21-day deadline for the search company to comply.

The U.S. Justice Department has set a suggested deadline for Google to hand over information about its users' search habits: 21 days.

In court documents submitted Thursday to U.S. District Judge James Ware in San Jose, Calif., federal prosecutors said they need a prompt response because of the compressed schedule of the case. They're asking Ware to set a 21-day deadline that would begin as soon as he makes a decision.

"Delay in this court's resolution of the motion to compel would be unwarranted," the three-page brief says.

In January, the Justice Department asked a judge to force Google to hand over a "random sample of 1 million" Web pages from its index, and copies of a week's worth of search terms, to aid in the Bush administration's defense of an Internet pornography law. That information is supposed to be used to highlight flaws in Web-filtering technology during a trial in Philadelphia this fall.

The Justice Department subpoena normally would have been a routine matter, and America Online, Microsoft and Yahoo voluntarily complied with similar requests. But Google's resistance sparked a furor over privacy, with Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, asking the Justice Department for details, and a bill announced in the House of Representatives that would require Web sites to delete information about visitors.

A hearing before Ware has been . He could rule on the Justice Department's motion during the hearing or anytime thereafter.

Google objected to the subpoena in a strongly worded brief filed last month by Al Gidari and Lisa Delehunt of the law firm Perkins Coie. It says that complying with the subpoena would be burdensome and violate privacy rights; that it's unnecessary for the government's defense of the Child Online Protection Act (COPA); and that it could even violate the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

The Philadelphia judge overseeing the COPA case wants expert reports in by May 3, which is why the Justice Department has asked Ware for a speedy schedule. After the Justice Department receives the data, it plans to turn it over to an academic statistician who will analyze the prevalence of pornography on the Internet and in Google searches.

For its part, the Justice Department says that it is seeking "this information only to perform a study, in the aggregate, of trends in the Internet. No individual user of Google, or of any other search engine, need fear that his or her personal identifying information will be disclosed."