Washington, D.C. - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit against the Department of Justice (DOJ) today, demanding information about communications between the DOJ's former top privacy official and Google, the official's current employer.
Jane C. Horvath was named the DOJ's first Chief Privacy and Civil Liberties Officer in February of 2006. At that time, Google was fighting a massive DOJ subpoena asking for the text of every query entered into the search engine over a one-week period. The DOJ request -- part of a court battle over the constitutionality of a law regulating adult materials on the Internet -- ignited a national debate about Internet privacy.
The DOJ later scaled back its request, and a judge eventually allowed access to only 5000 random Google search queries. In a subsequent news article, Horvath was publicly critical of the DOJ's initial subpoena, saying she had privacy concerns about the massive request for information. Horvath's new job as Google's Senior Privacy Counsel was announced in August of 2007.
EFF asked the DOJ for information about communications between Horvath and Google with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request as Horvath prepared to leave the agency, but the DOJ has not responded to the request more than six months after it was submitted.
"Google has an unprecedented ability to collect and retain very personal information about millions of Americans, and the DOJ and other law enforcement agencies have developed a huge appetite for that information," said EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel. "We want to know what discussions DOJ's top privacy lawyer had with Google before leaving her government position to join the company."
EFF's suit demands records of all correspondence, email, or other communications between Horvath and Google, and asks the court to order the DOJ to immediately process the documents for release.
This FOIA lawsuit is part of EFF's FLAG Project, which uses FOIA requests and litigation to expose the government's expanding use of technologies to invade privacy. Previous EFF FOIA requests have uncovered misuse of National Security Letters (NSLs) by the FBI, as well as improper FBI access to email from an entire computer network.
For the full complaint against the DOJ:
For more on EFF's FLAG Project:
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