Privacy group sues DOJ over its Google contact

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an online privacy group, has filed a lawsuit against the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to gain access to all communications between Google and a former Justice Department official who now works for Google.

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an online privacy group, has filed a lawsuit against the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to gain access to all communications between Google and a former Justice Department official who now works for Google.

In 2006, Jane Horvath was the Justice Department's chief privacy and civil liberties officer at a time that Google was fighting a DOJ subpoena seeking the text of every query entered into the search engine over a one-week period, the EFF said in a statement.

The DOJ later scaled back its request, and a judge ultimately allowed the department access to only 5,000 random Google search queries. In a news article after the judge's decision, Horvath was critical of the DOJ's initial subpoena, saying she had privacy concerns about the massive request for information, according to the EFF. In August 2007, Horvath was hired by Google as its senior privacy counsel.

In August, the EFF filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking the DOJ for information about communications between Horvath and Google. The EFF said it made that request as Horvath prepared to leave the agency. However, according to the EFF, the Justice Department has not responded to the request.

The EFF, the DOJ and Google could not be reached for comment at deadline.

"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."

The lawsuit was filed Monday in US District Court for the District of Columbia. In the lawsuit, the EFF demands records of all correspondence, email or other communications between Horvath and Google, and it asks the court to order the DOJ to immediately process and release the documents.

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