Google Blogoscoped

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Google Threatens to Close German Gmail Due to Local Law

According to information from Heise, Google warned that they might disable Gmail in Germany as last fallback should the German government maintain its position in regards to a newly passed law on record-keeping and supervision of internet traffic. According to this law, email services here will be forced to maintain personally identifiable records attached to email accounts. What exactly this might mean for Google I don’t know, but perhaps it would result in Gmail having to start requiring full addresses (and perhaps even having to verify an address by sending a snail mail to the user).

As usual in these circumstances, the law is pushed through in the name of fighting “terrorists.” But Heise quotes Google’s Peter Fleischer to have said that this law goes against Google’s policy to offer anonymous email accounts (actually, you need to give your first and last name upon Gmail sign-up, but then again you can fake that). Peter says, “Many users around the globe make use of this anonymity to defend themselves from spam, or government repression of free speech ... If the web community won’t trust us with handling their data with great care, we’ll go down in no time.” Peter added that a German-only solution for tighter control of email data isn’t useful in the first place, because people might simply escape to foreign email service providers.

Google standing up for the rights of their users to save less data than the local government asks is a brave move. And while there are other email providers in Germany, Google is the de-facto default search engine here, and that might give them some leverage – if only to escalate the situation and put the spotlight on this new law. On the other hand, as Jens Minor from the German Google Watch Blog remarks, “If Google will indeed stop their email service in the sense that no one will be able to access their mails anymore, they might as well close all local subsidiaries, and Mountain View can go ahead and forget this market – because they’d destroy all user trust from one day to another.”

[Thanks Patrick Kempf!]

Update: Some of you pointed out that the source of the story which Heise relies on is found at the German WirtschaftsWoche. [Thanks Heiko Hebig and Thomas Kuhn!]


Blog  |  Forum     more >> Archive | Feed | Google's blogs | About


This site unofficially covers Google™ and more with some rights reserved. Join our forum!