Google Taken To Court To Explain Why It Shut Down Someone's Gmail Over Missent Email

from the explanation-please dept

Paul Alan Levy writes "Last month, you wrote about the travesty perpetrated by Rocky Mountain Bank when it sued Google to shut down the gmail account of a Google customer to whom the bank had mistakenly emailed a pile of customer records. Equally disturbing was the way that Google -- which is usually pretty good about standing up to subpoenas for customer identity -- just rolled over and obeyed the court's order even though a second's review of the company's ex parte arguments to the court showed both that the bank never explained what the Gmail customer did wrong, never explained how Google could be sued in the face of 47 USC 230, and never showed that there was diversity jurisdiction.

So we have gone back to court, representing MediaPost Communications, arguing that Google's report to the Court, showing its compliance, is a judicial record that should have been, and now must be, filed publicly. We agree of course that any actual customer identification in the compliance report should be redacted."


This is a tricky issue. After all, Google, as a private company, has the right to shut down an email account on its own. But, seeing as this was all a part of a legal case, with a number of questionable elements, it does seem like the information that led to the account being shut down should be a part of the public record.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Liquid, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 10:55am

    Bank F*** up.

    Ok I can see the bank wanting to keep the said gmail users from not wanting to see their bank records. Records that were sent some douche that worked at the bank. Google should have said "hey guess what we will block access to that account for now so that we can remove said e-mail from that persons in box.". Not just completely blow that users access away like that.

    It is understandable that Google can do what they want when the want since they are a privately owned company. They are allowing users to use their stuff for free. They should have gone about it a little better. I mean come on the bank is the one that screwed the pooch on that deal.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    jt, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 12:12pm

    google not private

    Google is a publicly-traded company. It's not private as your article asserts

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    Shawn (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 12:23pm

    Re: google not private

    "The term privately held company refers to the ownership of a business company in two different ways: first, referring to ownership by non-governmental organizations; and second, referring to ownership of the company's stock by a relatively small number of holders who do not trade the stock publicly on the stock market."

    In this case the term private does not refer to the ownership of the company's stock. the use of the word private in the post is referring to a private company rather than a government organization.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 12:25pm

    Re: google not private

    It's private in that it's not a Governmental agency and as such is not subject to the many rules and regulations. As such they are allowed to do as they desire in allowing or not allowing access based on their whims. There may be questions or issues based on their user agreements but even that is likely to be a non-issue.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    JustMe, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 12:31pm

    Re: JT

    Umm, no, sorry. They are a private company. Certainly they are publicly traded, but that doesn't require them to ask for permission from the shareholders each time they do something.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Another AC, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 12:55pm

    Re: google not private

    Google is a publicly-traded company. It's not private as your article asserts

    A "Private" company is one not owned by the Government.

    He did not assert that it was "Privately Held". Please note the distinction.


    As a private company Google, in accordance with their ToS, makes no guarantees of their products or services, and presumably reserve the right to close/disable/reject any of their offerings to any person for any reason. This freedom of choice/discretion is not always seen in Government owned/operated companies, which is why it is noted that Google is a Private company.

    "4.3 As part of this continuing innovation, you acknowledge and agree that Google may stop (permanently or temporarily) providing the Services (or any features within the Services) to you or to users generally at Google’s sole discretion, without prior notice to you."
    http://www.google.com/accounts/TOS?hl=en

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Christopher Smith, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 1:53pm

    Business interference

    While it's unlikely that the end user has any case against Google, in many states he could sue Rocky Mountain directly for what's called "unlawful interference with a business relationship", since Rocky Mountain's getting Google to shut the account down was apparently legally bogus. It'd be interesting to see how such a case played out (and what kind of precedent it might set).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 3:57pm

    From what I know, the Google account in question was 'inactive', meaning that it was most likely abandoned and for some time. If you were Google and the bank asked you to do it a favour, it would be pretty obvious that no harm would come from just deleting the inactive account.

    The only interesting question is why so many people are seeing an easy and legally compliant decision on the part of Google (who has the right to delete accounts as it sees fit anyway) and extrapolating it to the point where everyone's account is on the verge of being deleted at the whim of a Google exec.

    There's no story here, move along.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 26th, 2009 @ 5:37pm

    Re:

    Because, of course, suing someone is "asking them a favor."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Oct 26th, 2009 @ 5:40pm

    Re:

    "...and extrapolating it to the point where everyone's account is on the verge of being deleted at the whim of a Google exec."

    No, I think that people aren't afraid that Joe Exec will wake up and decide to delete all mail accounts that have usernames with an odd number of characters in them. I think they're afraid that this action indicates that Google is not terribly interested in fighting for their users rights.

    It's a reasonable fear. Anyone using gmail is putting a huge amount of trust in Google, because they believe on some level that "don't be evil" was more than a marketing slogan. Some people are beginning to realize that Google is just a big corporation like all the others and their trust is being shaken.

    That's the story here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 27th, 2009 @ 7:39am

    It's not Goolges fight

    In some ways I see this situation as a good thing, because it is bringing to light how ridiculous court rulings can be. Particularly with respect to people suing that don't understand how technology works.

    Also in many respects it really shouldn't be Google's fight. They got a court order and followed it. Regardless of how stupid the court order might be. If they were to fight every court order they got even they with their billions would be out of money in a relatively short time.

    The real fear we should all have is the easy manner in which someone can get a court order to reveal information about you or restrict you access to note just email, but things like bank accounts, without any real evidence.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Oct 27th, 2009 @ 12:50pm

    Re: It's not Goolges fight

    That's absolutely true!

    I'm not saying Google is evil over this, just that they aren't saints. What I am saying is that people should understand what they're doing when they rely on third parties to handle important and confidential information, whether the third party is Google or anybody else. They are exposing themselves to additional risk. As you point out, the courts can be rather capricious and indelicate, and I think people should be cautious about expanding the area of exposure to them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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