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But Google's record is spotty. Just this month, it handed over a WikiLeaks volunteer's Gmail data to the U.S. government, which used an old and controversial law to request it without a warrant from a judge. Google is pushing for updated laws ...

This seems like an absurdly high standard if obeying the law and pushing for updated laws isn't enough.

Have we collectively forgotten the time when journalists went to jail rather than reveal their sources, and publishers didn't waiver in their support?

However understandable Google's position may be, fighting the law is not an "absurdly high standard". Sometimes it's simply the right thing to do.

This "obey the law, obey the government" attitude is a post-9/11 thing we really need to get over.

Journalists traditionally "go to jail" to protect the identity of a source in the face of a judge's request that the identity be revealed. Part of this derives from their ethical obligation to protect the anonymity of a source once they have promised to do so in order to gather information for a story. It's also done for practical reasons, as to disclose the identity would cripple their ability to collect information in that manner going forward.

I'm reluctant to see that as parallel to refusing to turn over evidence of a crime. For example, if a journalist had documents that are potentially incriminating of a third party, and a judge asked for them, I don't know the journalist would refuse.

Ok, sure. Google can do better in the "making the world a better place" area, but at what cost. It costs money and time to deal with things like this and quite frankly I'd rather they spent that on continuing to create great products.

Google is a publicly traded company, their first duty is to their share holders. If a reporter chooses goes to jail that's up to him, it's his decision to make. It's not Google's money to throw away.

Saying we can't ever blame a company for doing something, because the express purpose of a company is increasing shareholder value, is such an absurd line of reasoning. Then blame the shareholders instead of the company!

At some point there's always people making decisions. The abstract soulless entity "Google" may not have any moral responsibilities, but Google's owners do.

>their first duty is to their share holders.

Even if this is entirely true, it is quite possible that fighting the law more aggressively may be in their share holders best long-term interest. An excessive focus on the extremely short term has caused many businesses quite a lot of trouble over the last century. For a really interesting analysis of the decline of a machine-tool manufacturing company (the most thorough discussion of the issues I know of) see Max Holland's When the Machine Stopped, about the decline and collapse of Burgmaster, a mid-century "start-up" by an inventor.

I meant not throwing away money in respect to suggestions that they out right refuse a legal order. Not that they hire more lawyers to attempt to change that legal order.

I was talking about the prospect of them breaking the law.

their first duty is to their share holders.

This is true, but you're assuming that the shareholder's only interest is financial. I daresay that at least some of them bought those shares because they believe in the "do no evil" motto, and believe that Google can make the world better.

To this extent, doing the right thing despite monetary costs may be what the shareholders want.

Their responsibility is towards shareholders with voting rights. As far as I know, the voting rights are skewed in favour of Brin and Page. If you don't have a significant voting right, you are a mute spectator at best and if you don't like what they're doing, all you can do is GTFO.

Isn't the New York Times also a publicly traded company?

Sort of. It does have some publicly-traded shares but the Ochs-Sulzberger family has majority control and their shares are not publicly tradable.

>Google is a publicly traded company, their first duty is to their share holders.

I'm a shareholder. It's not much, but it does imply a tiny bit of ownership. And so, as a shareholder, I want Google to be totally righteous even at the risk of going bankrupt.

That's easy to say when you only have a small amount of money invested in ownership. If you had a lot more riding on this, you might take the opposite position. Not saying your current one isn't correct, but still...

Google actually fought so they don't have to give the data of that Wikileaks guy, but I think they had no choice in the end.

What do you mean "had no choice"? They ran out of appeals? The gov sent in storm troopers and held a gun to someone's head?

Is that really what's needed for you to be satisfied with Google's decision? You need there to be violence to prove that what they did was enough?

No...I simply asked to what extent they dug in their heels. The first question I posed in this regard was did they exhaust their legal, non-violent appeals process. The second question was referring to a metaphoric gun; questioning if the gov used extremely unfair measures to produce the results they wanted. I was looking for someone that had more extensive knowledge on this event to provide details. I don't have them.

Well if they were given the choice between giving the relevant data or getting their entire data center raided, I'd pick option one.

They had the choice to say "No, fuck you. We're not giving it to you. In fact, one of our interns accidentally just the entire relevant harddrives."

No, they just ran out of choices that didn't actually demand anything of themselves.

"an absurdly high standard if obeying the law and pushing for updated laws isn't enough"

The law, in case of disputes, doesn't work that you just obey one rule. Different people interpret them differently and often multiple rules apply. Also, laws and their interpretations change over time.

Just because one branch of the government claims the law says you have to do X doesn't mean that's the only interpretation of the law or the only law that applies.

That's why a different branch of the government interprets laws than enforces them, at least in the U.S. When the executive branch tries to circumvent the judicial, you can bet they don't think the judicial branch would agree on their interpretation.

Does anyone know if what they're talking about a National Security Letter? I would guess not, since those come with a gag order.

Yes, there is little they could do since its the government we are speaking about here.

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