US Judge Issues Warrant for a Gmail Users’ Emails, Sparks off Debate on User Data Collection and Privacy

July 19, 2014 - Written By Syed Sofian Rabbani

An international debate on user data privacy and the authority that governments have for conducting rampant large-scale surveillance was sparked off in June 2013 when the then government contractor for the US Governments National Security Agency, Edward Snowden, had leaked confidential information to the media which outlined the Governments’ massive data collection and surveillance program. The wildfire that spread post the Snowden leaks has spread globally sparking off myriad debates on user privacy, data collection and the rights of individuals versus the governments’ claimed responsibility of ‘National Security’. Visit this link to know why the FBI wants to spy on your Gmail.

Another chapter in the debate has been added thanks to a federal Judge in New York, who has issued a warrant to prosecutors, and Google, to relinquish a Gmail users’ emails as part of a criminal money laundering investigation. The point of contention in this case is that several judges in the US have so far denied prosecutors broad-based access to a users’ emails on the basis that improper access to all emails – not just relevant ones – is actually a breach of the individuals’ right to privacy. Judge Gorenstein, however, has set aside this precedent to allow investigators access to a broad swath of emails, so that they may assess which ones are relevant to the case. Though it is commendable that the Magistrate has explained his stand on approving the warrant, there are several within the same community of judges who hold a different view of the matter. A case in point being the US Supreme Court’s ruling in June, which mandated Police to obtain a warrant for searching an arrested suspect’s cellphone. In a similar tone, a Magistrate in Washington DC had rejected a warrant for emails from a defense contractors’ Apple email account citing that the warrants were overly broad.

National Security and matters of criminal import are heavy concerns, however too much power in the hands of any authority would be put to undeniable misuse and an evasion of a person’s privacy. We believe a balance to both these views – Security vs. Privacy – is needed for a healthy society and a long debate will bring a mature solution to fruition. What’s your take on this? Do let us know in the comments below.