Google Is Resisting Government Gmail Requests


Google is currently embroiled in a number of court cases with the US government, on both federal and state levels, over access privileges for Gmail server contents worldwide. The US government has its myriad reasons for wanting access to Gmail servers, even off their own shores, and warrants to back them up. Google, however, is resisting on a number of fronts in the interest of user privacy. The majority of these cases are sealed, and records are unavailable to the public. The cases that are on record revolve around the Stored Communications Act, which covers domestic communication records. Normally, this wouldn’t allow them to demand records in other countries. Since Google is an American company, however, there is an argument that their offshore records could fall under this law.

Right now, the biggest case out of all of the public ones is happening in a Philadelphia court. That particular case saw Google oppose a records demand, then go on to get amicus briefs of support signed by Apple, Amazon, Cisco, Microsoft and Yahoo. A case in a nearby court concerning offshore Microsoft records ended up with the conclusion that the government was overstepping its bounds in “an impermissible extraterritorial application of U.S. law.” Google is hoping to use the precedent from this case to color their own case, then use that same precedent with all of the similar cases that they’re fighting right now.

Google fights for the privacy of their users whenever possible, but when applicable laws do force them to turn over records, they publish as much detail of those surrenders and seizures as they can in transparency reports, in much the same manner as they chronicle requests to delist search results. This battle ties in closely to the ongoing argument over the legality and ethical implications of allowing consumers to put encryption on their personal devices that government technicians can’t crack. The argument to equip such devices with a backdoor engineered by companies for government access has been staunchly rejected as insecure by the tech industry, again mirroring the type of case at hand; most companies are just as reluctant to give up their records, international or otherwise, as Google is.