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As news circulated of the government’s recent effort to force Google to hand over information about what its users are searching for, you could almost hear the collective gasp from Internet users. Wait, Google has been keeping records of all my searches? Including the embarrassing ones (“britney spears nude” was the second most popular “britney” search last month), the incriminating ones (your searches about marijuana cultivation were for research, of course), and the routine ones (from which your professional and recreational interests can easily be deduced)?

Anyone who looked into the story quickly realized that the privacy intrusion was less dire than it first appeared — the U.S. government is not looking for your personal search history (although Justice Department officials reserved the right to follow up on any interesting information they come across). But before you breathe a sigh of relief, remember that the feds could ask Google for your search history. And so can any private litigant with an axe to grind and a subpoena in hand. If someone does deliver a subpoena to Google for your records, there is no law that requires that you even be notified, much less be afforded an opportunity to object.

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