Privacy Infringement: Google Ordered to Submit Emails to FBI


Google will have to share customer emails stored outside the United States with the FBI for search warrants issued in compliance with a 1986 federal law — Stored Communications Act, which is considered to be outdated by tech companies and experts and a breach of user privacy.

Photo: Niharb/Flickr CC

The judgement by Thomas Rueter, a Philadelphia judge, comes into direct contradiction with a similar case involving Microsoft last year, wherein judges had stated that the company can not be forced to comply.

This ruling can have serious privacy implications as FBI will have access to Google mail servers globally.

According to a report by Reuters, the judge mentioned that such data transfer from Google’s servers abroad ‘has the potential for invasion of privacy’ but the violation doesn’t occur until ‘the time of disclosure in the United States’.

Google has used Microsoft’s case as an example to challenge the ruling by the magistrate and has stated that it will appeal against the decision and ‘push back on overbroad warrants’.

Outdated Laws Being Used to Challenge Privacy


The 1986 federal law itself is unarguably an outdated law as the technology used at the time of its creation is completely different from what is being used today.

The use of such obsolete laws laid down three decades ago when the technology that exists today wasn’t even being discussed or thought about is in itself a laughable proposition.

In the case of Microsoft where FBI needed emails saved on the company’s servers in Dublin, Ireland for a narcotics case, the judge noted that the Stored Communications Act is ‘overdue for a congressional revision that would continue to protect privacy’.

In a ruling in December last year, the FBI had received legal hacking abilities from the Congress, which theoretically can be used by the secret service agency to hack devices located anywhere in the world.

With increasing privacy concerns among users, numerous people have switched to encrypted services and been increasingly concerned about their data being shared.

The federal law is in dire need of amendments in order to stay abreast with the current tech as well as its usage.

A new study also concluded that that 84% of US consumers are concerned about privacy, with 70% of them acknowledging that their concern is greater today than it was a few year ago.

There isn’t much Google can do right now except challenge the judgement and hope that the law is revised to suit current tech usage better and ensure that privacy of users either in United States or elsewhere in the world isn’t hindered.

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Bike enthusiast, traveller, ManUtd follower, army brat, word-smith; Delhi University, Asian College of Journalism, Cardiff University alumnus; a journalist breathing tech these days.