Judge Orders Google To Turn Over Gmail Account To Feds

from the trust-is-fading... dept

For all of those worried about the Department of Justice forcing Google to turn over search data, it seems there’s another case that may be even more interesting. A judge has ordered Google to comply with a subpoena to turn over someone’s complete Gmail account records, including any deleted messages they still have on a server. This isn’t surprising. The guy was charged with a crime by the FTC and eventually settled, but the FTC is trying to track down where he hid his assets. It’s pretty standard for them to subpoena anyone who might have such info — in this case Google, since the guy used Gmail. The guy tossed up some reasons why Google shouldn’t turn over his Gmail account (revealing confidential info and attorney-client privileged communications, along with the idea that this was unfair since he’d have to pay his attorneys to sift through all the data as well, and that would cost too much). However, in the end, the judge didn’t find any of his reasons very convincing. Not a huge surprise, but a reminder for those of you using your Gmail for criminal activity.

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Comments on “Judge Orders Google To Turn Over Gmail Account To Feds”

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benmcnelly (user link) says:

from the trust-is-fading... dept

I dont know that we could ever trust anything to be ultra secure, but look to see more and more people busted or trying to be busted by the government, because our lives are being more and more archived. Especialy those of us used to google’s free services. Yes google is prety trustworthy (I kow, thats arguable.. fine) BUT the government will alway be able to get this info from them.

Look for the next big wave in the online world to be privacy tools and hacks. Imagine full survice email (like Gmail) but no worry about anyone turning over your emails, and if the Gov did get them, they wouldent know it was you…

wolfwalker says:

Re: Re: "It doesn't affect me because I don't comm

My point on another comment from another stupid comment.

Don’t teach histroy in school and people don’t know what went wrong and they will allow it again in other forms. Nothing from the Civil War back is taught in schools anymore (public gov’t schools that is). It is not in my house so I do not concern myself with it. Well it is in everybody’s house and will come knocking on your door in the middle of the night one of these days.

Thank you for your comment!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

Professor HighBrow says:

Re: Re: "It doesn't affect me because I don't comm

Re: “It doesn’t affect me because I don’t commit c by john on Mar 17th, 2006 @ 2:49pm

I can remember a similar argument in Germany, between 1933 and 1943… “It doesn’t affect me because I’m not Jewish, so why should I worry about it?” If I have to explain why this logic is flawed (and ignorant) then you’re already lost.

Although Nazi references tend to get missused these days, your point is ON TARGET.

One might quote the famous poem, by Martin Niemöller.

“At first they came for the email…..”

You get the idea.

wolfwalker says:

Re: Re:

You don’t care if you have no privacy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! do you live in the United States? Privacy is a freedom that Brave men and women have fought and died for. So your kid can be stripped searched at school because someone in authority thniks that they are hiding something that might, maybe,could be or perhaps be used to accuse someone of doing something wrong according to the government???????? Just a small sample of the direction something like this can go.

Professor HighBrow says:

Re: I don't care if I have no privacy?

by killjoy on Mar 17th, 2006 @ 11:56am

I don’t care if i have no privacy. I don’t plan on doign any crime so if reading peoples email stops crime, go for it.

This is a very dangerous opinion to have. There is an inherent problem [and logical fallacy] inherent in that statement.

That is essentially akin to saying, “I’ve done nothing wrong, so it’s fine with me if you [search my apartment/wiretap me/search my person/come into my home, etc.]

Just how when a police officer says, “Can I search your vehicle? If there’s nothing for you to hide, then why are you objecting?”

Refusal to allow permission to search and seizure DOES NOT imply guilt. This is why we have the 4th Ammendment, and ideas such as “Innocent Until Proven Guilty.”

I’m sure someone else would be happy to explain further why the statement “If you have nothing to hide, then why won’t you let me look/search” is a logically fallacy.

Tyshaun says:

More philosophy than anything else...

While I do agree there’s nothing wrong with the government being able to access e-mail records for a particular case, it does make me a bit sad. I remember reading sci-fi as a child and thinking how great the future sounded. Personal spaceships and flying craft so you could go anywhere you want, most diseases could be cured, people would all live together in harmony wearing dayglo spandex outfits. But alas, I think George Orwell had a better view of the future. For all the great things technology has given us the one thing it has done that can’t, perhaps, ever be undone is that now our lives are pretty close to being a digital catalog for anyone to peruse. From school records, medical records, spending habits, even opinions (see blogs and forums), someone can find almost anything they want to know about you. I know, none of this is new to anyone reading this board, I guess the kid in me wished that the “future eutopia” path and not the “1984 totalitarian” path was the route mankind had followed (and yes, I think we’ve already picked our path).

Jim Quinn says:

Re: thinking for yourself

Are you not ,just saying what every one else is saying ,?”try thinking for yourself”. thats is what we all say……It seems all the people opposed to anything,want you to think like them,and come up with the big catch phrase “Think for yourself”,but if you follow their way of thinking,arn’et you thinking like them?

The Grey Lady says:

at least it was court-ordered

I also value my privacy EXTRMELY, however, at least this instance is court-ordered and has, therefore, gone through appropriate channels (unlike other surviellance in recent history). I tend to agree with Tyshaun in mourning the loss of the hoped for utopia and recognizing the nightmmare of information totalitarianism that the current political “Powers that Be” have adopted.

Bob says:

Are you sure?

What if these so called anonymous email or web search services are actually set up by the government and used to track the activities of the people that really matter, those that have a reason to hide what they’re doing. Seems like a commen sense good idea to me. Don’t forget that it was the government who built the fucking internet. Absolutely nothing is completely anonymous. That’s just plain fact. Don’t fool yourselves into believing otherwise.

Ken Ketsdever (user link) says:

Re: Are you sure?

You make a good point, but I can ensure you that you are not tracked on Anonweb.com. I am the owner. I’ve been getting a lot of hits that originate from Techdirt.com and wanted to thank you all for checking us out.

Let us know what we can do to make the site better for you the user. All comments are always welcome.

Thanks again to those who have checked us out and to the folks at Techdirt.com.


i didn't do it. says:

Here's the problem...

Here’s the problem for all you “If you don’t do anything illegal, you have nothing to worry about” people: The growth of permanently archived data means that one’s entire history will be available for perusal at any time. So while this story is limited to one person, how long before the gov decides they wish to search google’s email archives for references to al qaeda? Don’t worry, they won’t look at anyone’s name unless the word al qaeda is found. But then you remember that email you sent to your friend joking about the Osama and Bert photo. And when you searched Google for the photo, it happened to be on a site that al qaeda sympathizers frequent and now Google has a click through log with your IP addy going to that address. Hmm. Suddenly you’re a person of interest as indicated by google’s archive history of you. So, the significance of this story is not the individual case, but rather the reinforcement that permanent archives of personal data will inevitably be misused and (most likely) misinterpreted.

Spiderman says:

Where did it all begin?

Maybe the gov’t should start looking at where piracy started? I honestly don’t think it was a “because we can” thing. I believe it started because the citizens got sick and tired of entertainment companies charging outrageous prices for media just so they can get rich quick. I mean when your famous for 1 movie or 1 album and they’re able to buy 3-4 mansions, 8 cars, and a personal jet. Then i think they’re being paid a bit much for their entertainment

Ponder says:

If you want...

to keep your email secret, run your own email server. When your done you can then destory the hard drive or other media used physically, ie hit it with a hammer. This is the only way to control this. Even then, servers which the message passes through may record it. If I break the law, I expect them to want to see all my possentions, and these days, my computer data to.

Aaron Friel says:

Re: Why is my info being released?

Please tell me you kids aren’t still up in arms. This isn’t the first time a subpoena has been used against an ISP to turn over email records. Ever heard of a company called Enron? A subpoena is a perfectly normal procedure to enable the government to acquire information, much like a search warrant. A subpoena has to have significant weight behind it in a specific case, otherwise it’s just meaningless. The word subpoena comes from latin, and a writ of subpoena is literally an order to appear in court or trial. Without subpoenas, nobody shows up for court, no evidence is presented, &c. I shouldn’t have to explain to you all that it is very important that the government have the power to compel testimony from individuals and corporations in trials. No evidence and no testimony leads to no case, and that would mean everyone gets off free.

So calm down kiddo, don’t worry, the Man isn’t after your email yet. The Man is after his email. Why? Because he commit a crime. In fact, he’s convicted of it. So why do they issue a subpoena? To find out what happened with the assets (read: money or stuff.) If you think this is illegal, then I suppose it’s OK to steal from a bank and serve your time without having any of the funds returned? Again, a subpoena is what enables this to occur: the government compels evidence from another party.

Steven says:

Wait until you can see an opening, then strike.

Well I Think that if the government want’s to they can do what ever they want. I mean how would we know? For years they been hiding things from the public and who knows what the truth is and what it is not, so I think the best thing would be to do what we always do. Use more common sense though and if your going to do anything illeagly than the internet isn’t the best place to do it, or is it? See what I,m saying. Every thing done today is a risk in one way or another so if we always worry about it then we won’t have any time to enjoy what we have now. So I say the Hell with the government. No mater what they are just going to do what they want one way or another. So I guess I can agree with just about all or you.

Bob says:

Are they already watching?

Remember that old program NeoTrace? Well I decided to do a little experiment. Anyone who has this or something like it please try this and let us know what happens. I traced as many high profile site as I could think of, Google, Yahoo, even Anonweb, and many others and they all had one thing in common. They were routed through New York and more importantly Washington, DC. Is this just a coincidence or my geographic location? I really want other people to try this. I think that maybe they are already logging all traffic to specific sites. I dunno. Let me know what you think.

Chris says:

Re: Are they already watching?

Its just your geographic location or more importantly who your provider is and thier routes. In general most US internet traffic goes through Dallas, Seattle, San Franciso, Washington, New York, Atlanta, or Chicago at some point in the trace.

Living in New York and tracing a site inside New York still might mean your route to the site travels through Chicago or Washington first.

As for the rest.. Anyone as concerned as some of you appear to be about privacy shouldn’t be using plain text emails anyway.

Bob says:

Re: Re: Are they already watching?

Ok, so here’s where the traffic goes for Google. I live in Massachusetts and it goes from my router to another in this state, then to one in Ashburn, Virginia, then it goes all the way back to New York, then to DC. After that then it goes to California. Seems like a waste of time and bandwidth to me. The one in Ashburn is an Equinix Data Center IBX so why not just route straight to California from there? Why all the way back to New York and then to DC? My suspicions are raised because what’s the point of that?

Bob says:

Re: Re: Are they already watching?

But my point is that it (Anonweb) takes the same route as Google does, going through all those major cities this is not my only example), but why? And why do other sites not go through those routers. Some sites do and some don’t, but those that do tend to be largely popular and worth keeping an eye on. If I go to Google.com and it’s going through all those pipes instead of taking a more direct route then there’s definitly money being lost on unnessecary use of bandwidth.

Aaron Friel says:

Are they already watching?

Yes and no. For one thing, if the NSA were piping data directly through its building, it would go through the facility in Fort Meade, Maryland. This is quite a ways distant. It’s more likely that your ISP has a hub there, or that there may be a central hub there for internet traffic. This is quite possible, yes? The CIA wouldn’t be going through your traffic, but the FBI might (if they wanted to do so, it would be illegal, and so it’s highly unlikely that it goes through any routers owned by them… it would be grounds for some rather serious legal action against the government.) On the other hand, if you want to play the conspiracy card, you could say that They (read: Them, the Man) have datacenters set up to archive all the traffic going through them anywhere in the world. And obviously, because They (read: Them, the Man) are so popular, they have (a.) not yet gotten caught, and (b.) are willing to waste millions (billions?) of dollars to archive most of the spam in the world. Keep in mind, the most secure encryption protocols known are quite openly readable, and that many open source programs are distributed with the capacity for relatively high security. Any ter’ist (badly accent and slurred) that wants to can easily download any of a number of applications with encryption capabilities that would take hundreds of years to decrypt given the combined computing capacity of the entire world.

Let me put it this way: it just isn’t feasible these days to cycle through all that traffic, when encryption is virtually free. Also, given the huge amount of spam (literal and figurative) that goes through these routing centers, do you think that it really provides them with much data? The NSA’s datamining days are over… its datacenter has certainly outlived its purpose, as it used to be part of a very concerted and well thought out effort to defeat Soviet Union intelligence and computing programs. It did its job well, and kept them on their toes for many years. But then this was redirected to global terrorism and datamining, and it does this less effectively. The data is more widespread, there is even less knowledge of the credibility of various sources, and as opposed to the early 70’s, everyone in the world can have highly secure encryption.

Aaron Friel says:

Are they already watching?

Bandwidth is cheap, don’t let the telcos lie to you. Laying new fiber might be expensive, but in the long run, they aren’t losing pennies to a bit of HTTP traffic. The google homepage in terms of download size can be measured in a few KB. The ‘huge’ 4.6KiB logo is the majority of that. Honestly, I think what is happening is that your service provider is simply employing cost-effective routing measures, and the most cost effective happens to be a long route. Maybe that route has higher bandwidth, and the reason why popular websites more often take it is because they can provide more reliable service than through their own lines? Think about how much bandwidth is going from NY to DC, and from DC to California. That’s no small amount, yes? Well, your provider might simply be employing a routing table that uses statistical measures to route your traffic in an effective manner. In the end, your latency won’t really differ by all that much, and so it doesn’t penalize them.

This is the most logical, and most simple explanation. Occam’s razor would tell us that there is no massive spying program going on between your ISP and the US Government, but rather, the ISP is freeing up bandwidth by using different routes to major sites to free up smaller lines with less bandwidth. If you consider how many billions of times google is accessed a day, it becomes pretty logical that your ISP would want to use as little bandwidth as possible on their site.

Henry Havelock Ellis 1929 says:


Privacy is an illusion. Police Agencies routinely sign generic statements saying, “…they were acting suspicious…” and on court-cross-examination it’s discovered what they really meant was “they were not acting like the robot I expected them to act like…well they acted like a poor liberal that had a mind of their own, and that to me is very suspicious…” but in most cases this takes place =after= the subpoena or illegal search and the persons rights have already been violated. There arent enough paid attorneys to defend these cases, because the money is on the side of law-enforcement agencies, which results in this reality being more the rule than the exception.

In some cases, people are factually innocent of an alleged crime but are charged because of past personal history and the illegal means that were used to discover that personal history. Such as someone who visited adult (not child) porn sites on their computer and are charged with a crime against a child due to the illegal infringement and association.

Also to note I believe it was the President of Oracle Corp who once said about computer users seeking privacy, to paraphrase: “(…Get over it, you have none…)”

Finally, virtually every ISP and Software giant today has escape clauses in their User Agreements or Privacy Policies because they know that they cannot guarantee privacy, and know that in most cases you are screwed.

The moral of this story is: “Dont trust computers or the people promoting them and dont trust that the government will act honestly towards you.”

Havelock Ellis’ famous saying about progress was right – but we ignored him long ago.

KayJay says:

Privacy Issues

I, like many other innocent Americans, are concerned about personal privacy issues caused by recent actions by our President, Mr. George W. Bush. Here is one American’s question to him:

What Are You Thinkin’ – Written by K. J. Shelton – © 2006 – All Rights Reserved – audio can be heard on my ftp web space through earthlink at http://kjshelton.home.mindspring.com/WhatAreYouThinkin‘.mp3

What are you thinkin’ Mr. President
Why must you tell us all these lies
What are you thinkin’ Mr. President
Don’t you know that we are not the bad guys

I look around me and see confusion
Nobody seems to know what to believe
So please just help us to understand it
We really need to know what you think

What are you thinkin’ Mr. President
Why must you mess with all our lives
What are you thinkin’ Mr. President
Don’t you know that we are not the bad guys

You spy upon us without an order
You make us fear what we once loved
This land America is like no other
We no longer hear our freedom ring

What are you thinkin’ Mr. President
Why must you tell us all these lies
What are you thinkin’ Mr. President
Don’t you know that we are not the bad guys

Oh no now we are not the bad guys

Musik (user link) says:

lol Noobs

lol you Noobs, not one of you has brung about a good argument as to why someone should be frightened to have the government look through their E-Mails if they are not committing a crime. You just talk about stuff that works around it, and say stuff like “omg!!! If you don’t know that them looking through your E-Mail is bad then God help you?!”

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