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Judge Asks Google to Hand Over Gmails  (View post)

SCJM [PersonRank 10]

Friday, March 17, 2006
16 years ago

Google seems to have a lot of legal trouble lately...
[Changed image location on request. -Philipp.]

PS: All my other posts have been made under "Stephen" and "Stephen M.". This seems to be a less commonly possible name... This is new name.

Corsin Camichel [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

You missed the beta ;)
Seriously. Google makes a lot of money. And others want have some pieces of that big money cake. In the U.S., courts are a good way to get money from a big company

paula [PersonRank 0]

16 years ago #

yeah, one have to wonder if gmail (or google in general) is the way to go........

Mark Draughn [PersonRank 5]

16 years ago #

This is a routine part of the legal discovery process. When you become involved in a lawsuit, each side can force the other side to turn over documents and other evidence if they are relevant to the case. Your lawyer can argue against it, of course, and the judge gets to decide what you have to do.

There are a number of protections. For example, I was peripherally involved in a lawsuit in which the other side wanted to search through a complete image of all the hard drives on my computer. We agreed to let an uninvolved third party, a major accounting firm, image my drives and decide what to turn over to the other side. We would be present during their examination. If you've never had strangers come into your house and take a copy of everything on your computer, and then look through all your files, let me say that it's a disturbing experience. My wife is still upset at the thought of it.

Discovery also applies to third parties who have relevant information. This includes your email provider (including gmail), your web hosting service, your internet service provider, your telephone company, your cellular service provider, your bank, your credit cards, your business associates, your customers, your suppliers, and anybody else who might have useful information.

There are some protections. For example, your communications with your attorney are protected, and your medical information is protected unless you make it part of the case, such as if you sue for medical malpractice.

People are often surprised at the vast scope of the civil discovery process. Every piece of information about you can be found and subpoenaed with enough time and effort.

Some people go to great lengths to prevent discovery. Some companies do product safety testing in labs that are in countries that do not cooperate with U.S. courts. If you want to have email that can't be searched by a court order, I hear Antigua has some nice web and email hosting services. Or find out where all those internet g*mbling sites are hosted.

Hashim [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

"his is a routine part of the legal discovery process."

Right. There is nothing special about this story.

JeffJonez [PersonRank 1]

16 years ago #

The unique angle here is that Google keeps EVERYTHING. It's the ultimate grab bag of personal info. If you weren't scared about that before, you should be now.

Mark Draughn [PersonRank 5]

16 years ago #

"Right. There is nothing special about this story."

Yeah. My point, which I kind of lost in all that I wrote (there's a reason I call my blog Windpundit), is that there is nothing Google-specific about this story.

Email providers get subpoenaed like this all the time. And I'll bet a commercial site like eBay handles a thousand of these a year. In this case, the federal government is a party to the lawsuit, so it's scarier, but it's a pretty routine and largely uncontroversial aspect of our legal system.

By the way, if a judge decides he wants to see your search history, that's as much a part of your record at Google as everything else. This also includes copies of correspondance, adsense checks, your posting in groups, and even cached copies of your web pages if some judge asks for them.

What made the earlier Justice Department request different, at least in my opinion, is that they weren't asking Google for records about people who were parties to a lawsuit or criminal case. They were asking for information about randomly-chosen (albeit anonymous) people.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

What about the privacy of those people who emailed Peter Baker since 2004... and who may not even live in the US/ under US laws? Isn't their privacy lost as well? Is it really that uncontroversial? It's still a relatively new situation – not older than 20 years – that we leave almost eternal digital footprints everywhere... maybe we're only slowly realizing what that means? 20 years ago, when we threw a snail mail letter into the trash (unless someone analyzed the trash right away) it was indeed "deleted forever"... today, we don't really know whether or not Google and others still store our stuff when we delete it...

nerio [PersonRank 1]

16 years ago #

here is the complete version...LOL

Mark Draughn [PersonRank 5]

16 years ago #

Let me just emphasize that I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.

"What about the privacy of those people who emailed Peter Baker since 2004... and who may not even live in the US/ under US laws?"

I'm pretty sure it's just like snail mail. Once you send somebody a piece of mail, they can do whatever they want with it. If they keep it, it can be turned over to other people in the discovery process.

As for whether or not it's deleted, if Baker wanted to make sure those emails were deleted, he should have used an email provider that could do that, or he should have run his own email servers. People have been forgetting about backups for a long time. That's one of the things that got Oliver North, for example.

Technically, if you sent Baker information, and you believe it's private to you and not pertinent to the lawsuit, you can ask the court for an order of protection. Of course, you've got to find out about it first...

Some of the recent government attempts to get information about people, such as certain provisions of the PATRIOT act, are very controversial. However, there is nothing controversial about the concept that a court can demand information from anyone who has information relevant to a matter before it.

I'm not saying it's right, but there isn't any organized movement to generally narrow the scope of the discovery process.

Caleb E [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

I had an aunt and when she died we had to clean out her house. She had kept every single scrap of snail mail she'd recieved for ~10 years. We all thought she was crazy for doing it, but i suppose thats exactly what we are all doing in gmail even now. interesting how that mindset changes between snail mail and email.

/pd [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

is this part of ...(??) $300M is a lot of money!!

"The second case stemmed from a fraud prosecution brought by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against the credit counseling firm AmeriDebt. In trying to uncover the whereabouts of more than $300 million in ill-gotten gains, a court has ordered Google to turn over the contents of one suspect's Gmail in-box, including all of the backup files, which Google's privacy policy says may contain even deleted emails in perpetuity. "

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