Shorter Google:

"Don’t eliminate the competitive advantage I gained by trying to protect Americans’ privacy."

McJoan reports that the CCIA wrote a letter to Congress opposing retroactive immunity.

In strong rebuke of the Chamber’s knee jerk Republican pandering, the trade group that actually represents companies in the computer, Internet, information technology, and telecommunications industries, the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) is opposed to telco amnesty [pdf], and have weighed in with their own letter to Congress.

To the Members of the U.S. House of Representatives:

The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) strongly opposes S. 2248, the "FISA Amendments Act of 2007," as passed by the Senate on February 12, 2008. CCIA believes that this bill should not provide retroactive immunity to corporations that may have participated in violations of federal law. CCIA represents an industry that is called upon for cooperation and assistance in law enforcement. To act with speed in times of crisis, our industry needs clear rules, not vague promises that the U.S. Government can be relied upon to paper over Constitutional transgressions after the fact.

CCIA dismisses with contempt the manufactured hysteria that industry will not aid the United States Government when the law is clear. As a representative of industry, I find that suggestion insulting. To imply that our industry would refuse assistance under established law is an affront to the civic integrity of businesses that have consistently cooperated unquestioningly with legal requests for information. This also conflates the separate questions of blanket retroactive immunity for violations of law, and prospective immunity, the latter of which we strongly support. [emphasis McJoan’s]

And if I’m not mistaken, Google and Yahoo are the two primary CCIA members who would be (as the letter states) "called upon for cooperation and assistance in law enforcement" [Update: as WO points out, Evil Bill Gates is as big a player in free email, and was also asked for search queries.] As you’ll recall, both Google and Yahoo were asked to turn over vast amounts of data that would have also revealed a good deal of proprietary information (Yahoo complied, Google fought the request).

The Justice Department has asked a federal judge to compel Google, the Internet search giant, to turn over records on millions of its users’ search queries as part of the government’s effort to uphold an online pornography law.

Google has been refusing the request since a subpoena was first issued last August, even as three of its competitors agreed to provide information, according to court documents made public this week. Google asserts that the request is unnecessary, overly broad, would be onerous to comply with, would jeopardize its trade secrets and could expose identifying information about its users.

Now, I don’t actually know whether or not Google is opposed to retroactive immunity because of this fight over the search queries or a request explicitly tied to terrorism. But I do wonder whether CCIA Google has specific requests in mind when it says,"our industry needs clear rules, not vague promises that the U.S. Government can be relied upon to paper over Constitutional transgressions after the fact."

Chairman Reyes–while you’re talking to telecom companies, maybe you ought to talk to Google, too, to find out what wacky requests the Bush Administration asked it comply with, because it sure sounds like it got some rather ambiguous requests.

Meanwhile, speaking of McJoan’s post–did you notice that yet another Quinn Gillespie client–the US Chamber of Commerce–is pushing for telecom immunity? Has the President’s Counselor recused himself from this fight, because those Quinn Gillespie clients sure seem to be pushing this big.

26 replies
  1. klynn says:

    CCIA, boy THAT’S a great deal of pressure… US Chamber of Commerce? That just tells citizens how wide the net was cast beyond telecoms and banks…

    I like the CCIA’s opposition. How will the Dems “balance” new documents from telecoms with this opposition? That will make NO sense what so ever for Dems or Reps…

    Transparency and no immunity. Bottom line.

  2. BillE says:


    I have been very interested in the way Darth has been building his protection for the future assuming that there is a time without them in goverment. My question for the amashed knowledge here is can we do any forward thinking to anticpate instead of just report and react?

    • emptywheel says:

      Not necessarily. Google would have gotten a different request than the telecoms. While it’s almost certain that Google was part of “the program” (because they would have been digging in GMail archives for terrorist email), it’s not clear they got the same letters/indemnity as the telecoms.

      Which is not to say I think bmaz is wrong–I don’t. I just don’t think we can assume Google’s relationship to “the program” is the same as AT&T’s.

      • klynn says:

        Can we say “not the same” but within the same scope? I cannot imagine Google NOT having equally keen “lawyering-up” on this?

        This is a great article from the past on Google…..&_r=1

        And my favorite from the article:

        Google’s legal muscle and shrewdness are not lost on those on the other side of the fights.

        “We’ve got a formidable legal team, but obviously it’s nowhere near the unlimited resources of Google,” said David A. Milman, the chief executive of Rescuecom, a nationwide computer repair company that sued Google on trademark infringement grounds similar to Geico’s — and quickly lost. The company said that it would appeal the decision.

        “People say you can’t fight the government,” Mr. Milman said. “Google, in this case, is very similar to the government. They’re the government of the Internet.”

        (My bold).


        Good point about MS and EU…

  3. WilliamOckham says:


    You are mistaken, at least to a degree. Microsoft is as likely as Google and Yahoo to be called on to cooperate with the USG and has much more reason to be concerned about their legal position. This issue is probably being pushed by email providers more than search providers. I haven’t seen any recent figures, but I’m pretty sure Microsoft (via Hotmail) and Yahoo are still bigger players than Google in that market. Microsoft, much more than Yahoo or Google, has to worry about catching flak from the EU.

    • emptywheel says:

      Nuts, I forgot about Hotmail. And as I noted in comments–yes, this is also about Gmail. Though I don’t think you can rule out the stupid pseudo-porn search as being part of this.

      • bmaz says:

        And as to @4 above also. No, Google, Yahoo etc. are most definitiely not the same as AT&T, Verizon etc.; for starters, there is the difference between those that are providers of services and those that have the physical facilities. the primary focus of the Bush Administration would have been on the physical facility nodes, which would have been San Francisco, as described by Mark Klein, and San Diego, Los Angeles, San Jose, Seattle and Atlanta as well as New york and/or one or two other spots in New England. But, above and beyond that, there is a difference in the nature and quality of general Counsel and legal offices. While Google and Yahoo may well be top notch, they do not have anywhere near the inbred with govt./DOJ talent and acumen that the major telcos such as AT&T and Verizon have. These are far different eggs in the same basket.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Google, of course, has gazillions of past searches stored on its massive server farms, many of which can be tied to individual computers, some of which can be tied to individual users.

      Multiple searches, sequenced by time, topic, sites searched (via links clicked from Google), etc., would be data access to which could make a Rovite swoon. Conceivably, that government access might also yield information about what Google and its sponsors or customers do with that data to commercialize it. There are Google sites around the world, too.

      The potential misuse of that data is endless. Given the Berlin Wall with which this administration surrounds all its activities, how would we ever know about any use, let alone misuse?

      • behindthefall says:

        Think that might contribute to the 930-off ‘names’ added to the domestic terrorist watch list daily. Those ‘hits’ have to come from somewhere…

  4. der1 says:

    And it’s all to fight these guys:

    The Korengal fighters are fierce, know the terrain and watch the Americans’ every move. On their hand-held radios, the old jihadis call the Americans “monkeys,” “infidels,” ‘’bastards” and “the kids.” It’s psychological warfare; they know the Americans monitor their radio chatter.

    So how’s that Cheny/Kagan plan working out?

    He and Specialist Michael Jackson had crawled up the hill twice trying to retake it. Each time the insurgents in “manjammies” whipped them back with machine-gun fire. There was blood on the stones around us.

    “Taliban are right,” he said. “Like they said yesterday, follow the birds, they follow the Americans. I wish I was made as strong as haj” — their nickname for insurgents. “They were balls to do what they did. And guess what? I’m not gonna lie. They won.”

    As Giunta said, “The richest, most-trained army got beat by dudes in manjammies and A.K.’s.” His voice cracked. He was not just hurting, he was in a rage. And there was nothing for him to do with it but hold back his tears, and bark — at the Afghans for betraying them, at the Army for betraying them. He didn’t run to the front because he was a hero. He ran up to get to Brennan, his friend. “But they” — he meant the military — “just keep asking for more from us.” His contract would be up in 18 days but he had been stop-lossed and couldn’t go home.…..#038;scp=1

    Google, Yahoo, these brave soldiers….they don’t live, breathe, or gather in the Village…it’s not their town. And the “Very Serious People” have trouble sleeping at night.

  5. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Fantastic CCIA letter.
    CCIA mantra: Open Markets. Open Systems. Open Networks.
    Fair, Full, and Open Competition.

    Also note that Sun is a member of CCIA; they recently announced they’ll purchase the (Open Source) database organization MySQL AB.…..mysql.html

    The Bu$hCheney economic model is based on Information Scarcity and Information Control (’whoever has the data has insider knowledge, and therefore a competitive advantage’). That business model seems much closer to the monopolistic telecoms than the newer/emergent Open Source, Open Market, Open Networks economic models that the CCIA represents.

    Apart from the legal implications of FISA, there are some extremely interesting economic contrasts emerging. Fascinating.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    “Immunity” is such “found money” for a lobbyist, none could refuse to fight for it, except the few with a palpable conflicting interest. But even a Congress Critter ought to appreciate that it turns Anglo-American law on its head. In its way, it is as reprehensible as physical torture, and as profoundly damaging.

  7. JohnLopresti says:

    I thought the ccia letter appropriately understated. The way I remember google’s responsiveness in the copa matter was it relinquished 1,000,000 searchstrings and website addresses but refused to cooperate with the government request for more searcher identification; whereas Yahoo and at least one other web provider were much more elaborate in detail identifying individuals in their handovers to the government. My impression is the ccia letter warns in a timely, forward looking manner about the precedent the Senate would take by immunizing telcos from surveillance associated torts. There seems to be even a new judicial return to looking for ways to recover some of the attritional losses to privacy rights; even U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White in the order last week rescinding his banning of the existence of wikileaks had the waft of a new return to openness in the court’s view of the future as requiring protections for the internet as a resource for individuals, beyond mere ‘net neutrality’, extending to a vision of the internet as a utility which needs nurturing in its growth stages. There seems to be a glitch in eff’s servers just now, but their copy of White’s February 29 rescission ostensibly is available there.
    And regarding wo’s helpful comments about email, I was reminded of Google’s gleanings yet again this morning as I was typing a note to a relative about a recipe for cooking something, and Google kindly posted alongside my culinary comments ads from four companies who offered competing recipes and equipment for sale used to cook that kind of food; so, yes, Google’s algorithms and access certainly must be on the shortlist of private database elements the government would like. We need to be sure the Senate’s screening of the next AG nominee is a thorough vetting, regardless of what happens at fcc after the next president is in office. This is kind of congress’ prime area of responsibility in protecting individual privacy.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Congress’ notion of individual privacy and data rights, as recognized eg by Canada or the EU, is to do NOTHING. Pretty much how they protected American Indian lives, healthcare, royalties, etc., or the timber and metals on federal lands, or our health via the FDA and Ag Department.

      As discussed elsewhere, the next president desperately needs to focus on “transformational” vs. “transactional” politics, lest the neocon list of what’s important or what constitutes the “center” becomes permanent.

  8. RickMassimo says:

    Meanwhile, speaking of McJoan’s post–did you notice that yet another Quinn Gillespie client–the US Chamber of Commerce–is pushing for telecom immunity? Has the President’s Counselor recused himself from this fight, because those Quinn Gillespie clients sure seem to be pushing this big.

    See, when you’re a Republican, it’s not conflict of interest; it’s expertise!

    • JohnJ says:

      Has the President’s Counselor recused himself from this fight, because those Quinn Gillespie clients sure seem to be pushing this big.

      Which direction is the push from? Are we sure that QG didn’t ask them to push for his MAIN CLIENT, the Big Dick?

  9. LS says:

    “vague promises that the U.S. Government can be relied upon to paper over Constitutional transgressions after the fact.”

    So…is that really laying it out there that they were told to do it and if it ever came up the government sort of promised it would paper over any constitutional violations? Is that what that says? Hellloooo

  10. Sedgequill says:

    CCIA’s mission from their About Us page:

    CCIA’s mission is to further our members’ business interests by being the leading industry advocate in promoting open, barrier-free competition in the offering of computer and communications products and services worldwide.

    CCIA Members

    CCIA’s advocacy of “open, barrier-free competition” should get the attention of the House.

  11. bigbrother says:

    EM…Thank you for this. It add to the perspective a great deal. A level playing field is important in a regulatory environment. This and EFF’s and the 40 plaintiffs rights have to be an issue in crafting any changes to FISA law or it’s enforcement.
    I hope someone DIGGs the heck out of this. Without knowing these concerns one might not find Telecom Immunity as egregiuos as it is.

  12. CTuttle says:

    I received this letter from Inouye, today…

    Dear Mr. Tuttle
    Thank you for your communication regarding S.2248, the FISA Amendments Act of 2007.

    S.2248 was passed by the Senate, as amended, on Feb. 12, 2008, by a vote of 68-29. I supported S. 2248, which included the Title II limited immunity provision for telecommunications companies, because I believe this legislation is a first step in addressing the civil liberties and privacy concerns raised by the President’s Terroist Surveillance Program. In addition, this legislation will provide our intelligence agencies with the tools and capabilities they require to defend all of us.

    Protecting our civil liberties and the privacy of all Americans is fundamental to our founding principles, and violations of those principles should not be taken lightly. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, our nation’s security became a top priority, and Americans came together willing to offer any assistance in our common defence. It is in this spirit of rallying to protect American lives that I believe the telecommunications companies now facing civil suits acted when they agreed to assist the President. In my opinion these companies acted in good faith that the cooperation the President sought was within the boundaries of our legal system.

    We cherish our freedoms and liberties. They are the cornerstones of our American democracy that must be defended and protected, and it is elusive and delicate balance that we constantly strive to acheive. We must not allow the actions of this Administration to jeopardize our nation’s security in the future. It is equally imprudent to ignore the impact those actions have on our freedoms and liberties, or we will concede the basic principles this nation was founded upon.

    Thank you again for sharing your thoughts with me on this important matter.


    If they had acted in good faith and legally, why would they need Immunity? WTF???

    • masaccio says:

      I think the cave-in crew are using the same writers, I got the same piece of crap from “Senator” Corker.

  13. Rayne says:

    Would be nice to know what it was about Google that got Hastert’s shorts in a bunched-up wad in regards to alleged violations of consumers’ privacy.

    What an effing joke, that; why wasn’t he worried about other search engines, or competitors like Amazon, or the damned ISP’s and telecom companies…

    I would like to ask Google: how’d you piss off Hastert, and please, could you do it again?

  14. Jonathryn says:

    We should put the big hurt on the Big D
    The actions of senior Democratic leadership on this issue is galling. We should call up the people who are responsible for laying down the plans for this horrifying abrogation of our rights as citizens, and make it plain to them that if they try to go through with this unspeakably corrupt legislation, that we will reach out and touch them. I don’t live in Silvestre Reyes’s congressional district, or Steny Hoyers’s, nor do I live in Nevada, home of Senator Harry Reid, or West Virginia, home of Senator Jay Rockefeller. But I can send money to primary challengers, and if they think they can trade my rights for their congressional safety, they have another think coming. It doesn’t matter who occupies those chairs in Washington if the result is the same as GOP domination.
    Silvestre Reyes:
    Phone: (202) 225-4831
    Steny Hoyer:
    Phone – (202) 225-4131
    Harry Reid:
    Phone: 202-224-3542
    Jay Rockefeller:
    (202) 224-6472
    Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee:
    Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee:

  15. Rayne says:

    Aha…have been waiting for this bit. This will certainly stir the pot a LOT:


    Google has opened up a free unified messaging and phone management
    service to users of its Blogger platform.

    News of limited beta of its GrandCentral service is creating some
    buzz. GrandCentral has been mostly silent since the startup was
    bought by Google last June. Until now, it had been available only by
    private invitation.

    GrandCentral offers users a free local phone number. Users can set
    their account so that incoming calls to their one phone number are
    directed to any of their phones – office, home or mobile – based on a
    set of rules, such as time of day and identity of the caller.
    GrandCentral also provides its users a centralized voicemail system
    that can be accessed by phone or online. The service can also …

    Read full story.

    Notice that this is tied to a Blogger account, not a Gmail account.

    Most interesting.

    WilliamOckham (5) — I disagree about MSFT getting pressured; they’ve already caved in so many different ways and allowed themselves to be co-opted, in exchange for getting a built-in preference for their products. You’ll see states like MA that are rejecting standardization around MSFT’s OOXML as not open enough — but you don’t see the USGOVT doing that, do you? Yahoo’s likely caved, even though they’re in a no-win situation. They caved to China’s demands on blocking access, for example, had Lantos calling them “ethical pygmies”; bet you they rolled over in order to stem the bleeding.

  16. JohnLopresti says:

    WashingtonPost today has published an article lobbying for bluedog acquiescence completion this week on dispensation for warrantless wiretaps.

    Google has posted today a rambling history approximately concerning its algorithm for parsing what we type on our keyboards, but the narrative has the tone of a deliberately fragmentated, popularized, and vaguely overprotective presentation of its way of conceptualizing how to grow the Google platforms’ profiling capabilities. I still think the chafing over the 700MHz spectrum auction is a salient place to observe incumbent Telco anxiety over competitiveness and altered revenue streams with the new comms hub paradigm Google is incubating, and that the retroactive tort-relief sought in the wiretap scandal is an issue onto which to piggyback the telcos’ next gen marketing plans. One of the linchpins has to be fiscal liquidity in this clash, which is why Google and Microsoft are at the front of the pack nipping at usta members’ heels. Yahoo may enjoy rejuvenation, and some trimming, after the m+a hassle with Microsoft resolves. Y is in no position to compete as a standalone company with Google now, if measured solely by current stock value of the respective companies. There is some interesting writing in business and tech literature stipulating the barriers Google and Microsoft face are similar processes of endemic senescence.

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