edit: Prof. Palfrey and I discussed this over email, and the Red Herring will correct the article to say
And certainly, protecting children from online pornography is an important public issue that we need to work together on to solve.
So Prof. Palfrey is definitely one of the good guys.
John Palfrey, a clinical law professor and executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School and quite a few others reports are saying, the government’s request for data to Google is to support research that they are doing to reword COPA, the Child Online Protection Act – a piece of legislation that has been ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court and that is intended to protect children from having finding/seeing pornography when they use the internet. Google Blogoscoped has a round-up of people who get the child pornography thing wrong.