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Google Gives the US Government Access To Gmail 445

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the of-course-they-do dept.
schliz writes "Google condemns the Chinese Government for censoring its results, and Australia for planning to do the same. Meanwhile, its lawyers and security experts have told employees to 'be intentionally vague about whether or not we've given access to end-user accounts,' according to engineer James Tarquin, hinting that Google may be sharing its data with the US government. Perhaps Australia's most hated communications minister, Steven Conroy, could be right in his criticism of Google's privacy record after all."
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Google Gives the US Government Access To Gmail

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  • by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @12:35PM (#31762844) Journal

    If China government cant get access to Gmail, what it makes it ok for USA? Especially to those accounts not owned by US citizens.

    If China tried to get access to gmail accounts of those who tried to start revolts in China and that wasn't ok, what makes it ok for US government to get access to those who try to start revolts in US (aka terrorists)? After all, USA also has a long [wikipedia.org] track record of killing those it considers its enemies and even civilians [wikipedia.org] and journalists [slashdot.org], in addition to detaining people and ignoring their human rights [wikipedia.org] along with sexual abuse [thecurrentaffairs.com] and torture [wikipedia.org]. US does exactly the same to it's enemies than China. Like most of Chinese people, US people also deny this or say it's not as bad or try to justify it by saying they're enemies or "terrorists". In the end it's all the same.

    • by 0racle (667029)
      Obviously Google let the US do this because they asked nicely, China just took it and Google said that was jsut impolite.
      Also - http://citizenx.org/wp-content/republican-fascism.jpg [citizenx.org] or http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2187/2368696288_c10d8e8a95_o.jpg [flickr.com]

      Your pick of party.

      I should probably get up off my ass and get my own mail server up and running.
    • by forand (530402) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @12:56PM (#31763232) Homepage
      If Google is abiding by its user agreement then it provides data on users if given a subpoena from a court of law under which it operates. The problem with China was that they did not go through their own legal process but turned to hacking Google's and users' computers. I believe that in the past Google HAS given Chinese law enforcement information on users when requested to do so by a court and when the data was within that courts jurisdiction.
      • by c1ay (703047)
        That's exactly why I started encrypting everything that goes through my GMail that I didn't want the court to see without my knowledge. I read a case where Google had restored from backup a users account on a court order. A prosecutor had sought to use his deleted mail against him and Google complied. GnuPG. The court might order me to turn over my key but they won't be reading my mail, deleted or otherwise, without me knowing about it.
    • by StWaldo (574433) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @01:09PM (#31763460) Homepage
      So by your reasoning, a terrorist is a revolutionary, and (at the risk of sounding jingoistic) the 9/11 attacks, Madrid bombings, London, Moscow, etc., were all on a par with Tienamen Square or any number of peaceful demonstrations for Tibet or human rights in general.

      And are you seriously suggesting that the US at large is culpable for the actions of William Calley, Jesse England, and any other rapist, murderer, or degenerate who manages to make it into the uniformed service.

      Careful using a broad brush when you paint your pictures, it smacks of an untrained eye and mind.
    • by e2d2 (115622)

      You're right. It is all the same and we need to condemn it whenever we see, no matter where. it's not okay simply because others are doing it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mrcaseyj (902945)

      The difference between giving access to US law enforcement and giving access to the Chinese government is like the difference between giving access to a police officer or a mafia criminal. The US government does criminal things sometimes, but the Chinese government IS criminal all the time, because it's a dictatorship. In the US, you can openly criticize the government, and if the people want to they can elect a reform candidate. In China a reform candidate can't even run, and the people aren't allowed to o

      • by mrcaseyj (902945)

        Actually, I don't think it is ok to overthrow a dictatorship by ANY means necessary. Specifically, I don't condone terrorism, which is targeting non-combatants.

      • There's absolutely no difference between a police officer obtaining information through illegal means and a mafia criminal doing the same. None.

        At that point they're both criminals. In fact, I'd say the police officer is worse given that the mafia dude probably hasn't taken any sort of constitutional oath.

        "If all the Chinese government wanted from Google was info on thieves and rapists and such, then nobody would complain about them handing it over."

        I would. We have due process for a reason. There's a big d

      • by Stoutlimb (143245) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:01PM (#31764134)

        "if the people want to they can elect a reform candidate"

        In most democratic countries, there are very healthy and active reform and fringe parties that regularly get a significant percentage of the popular vote. Where are these parties in the USA? News media don't even give them the time of day if they were to exist. It's not because nobody would vote for them... there are artificial barriers put up to creating any meaningful opposition to the existing two headed beast you call democracy. These barriers would be considered a horrible crime in any other democratic country, but for some reason USA'ers tolerate them, or rather, like the people of China, have no choice in the matter.

        The main difference between USA and China is that the USA system is far better at managing it's people into thinking they are running the show. Look beyond the USA to see how democracy works.

    • by qoncept (599709)
      With the exception of Guantanomo Bay, which I won't comment on because I'm not familiar enough, all of your examples are completely moot. The PRC government has actively and blatantly ignored human rights and censored the information coming in their country. The US has had some crazies in war situtations abuse and murder people, and in all cases it was condemned not only by the general public, but by pretty much everyone in the world -- including, in many cases, the people that actually DID IT.

      The US gov
    • by _UnderTow_ (86073)
      I assume from your broken English that you're not a native speaker. Which USA-hating country are you from? My guess is China.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Beautyon (214567)

      In the end it's all the same.

      What exactly is 'all the same' between Chiba and the USA?

      Like many people who sense that something is very wrong, you fail to articulate what it is.

      What's wrong with the US and China is that they are both run by criminal organizations called 'states'.

      Murray Rothbard explains what the state is and why it it's illigitimate wherever it runs; his book 'For a new Liberty' is a good place to start.

      The state is the source of the majority of the social problems faced by humans. That is the unthinkable and unsayable

  • I'm migrating from GMail pretty soon, and logging out any time I do a search.

    inb4 "You're overreacting" warblgharbl.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @12:40PM (#31762916)

    So in other words this is the opinion of someone who read an article which quotes someone as saying that he was told to do something suspicious. Good stuff.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @01:26PM (#31763718)

      So in other words this is the opinion of someone who read an article which quotes someone as saying that he was told to do something suspicious. Good stuff.

      Seriously.

      This sounds like what you would expect from Glenn "Did X do Y? Why hasn't X denied doing Y?" Beck, not Slashdot. It sound like fun, let me try.

      Your Rights Online: Slashdot Sells User Data to the Chinese Government.

      An Anonymous Coward writes: Certain American corporations are potentially working with the Chinese Government to sell user data. Slashdot is a Corporation. Slashdot is an American Corporation. This Anonymous Coward takes it on good presumption that, therefore, Slashdot is colluding with the Chinese. Given the evidence that Slashdot has not denied selling user data to the Chinese, these suspicions can be nothing but true.

      Journalists: Meet integrity. Integrity, meet journalists.

  • by Reapman (740286) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @12:40PM (#31762940)

    Why does the summary say "May Be Sharing" while the Title indicates this has already happened?

  • by Pojut (1027544)

    I hate to say this doesn't surprise me, but it doesn't :/

  • by tjstork (137384) <todd@bandrowsky.gmail@com> on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @12:41PM (#31762960) Homepage Journal

    Look, it doesn't matter who or where you are. The government has guns, you do not. If they want something, they will get it. What separates, or is supposed to separate, this process in places like the USA, from places like China, is that there is supposed to be accountability for the government that gets that information. This is at the ballot box and also due to separation of branches.

    That Bush argued that the executive was allowed to unilaterally search due to a commander in chief doctrine was what really got him in trouble with the left, and, I think on that score the lefties were correct. What's interesting, though, is that the present administration seems to be adopting the same doctrine, but is making the "personality" argument, and really, once you start using personality arguments, rather than supportive of a legal process, you've shredded civil rights. To wit, just because Obama might be a nicer dictator for some people doesn't mean that he is still not a dictator. If it is bad for a President to do something when you voted against him, it is bad for a President to do it when you vote against, and vice versa.

    • by Pojut (1027544) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @12:44PM (#31762988) Homepage

      Look, it doesn't matter who or where you are. The government has bigger guns than you.

      Fixed.

    • Google could buy guns and have a million nerd volunteer army.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Trepidity (597)

        Do corporations have the right to bear arms?

        (Half-joking, but I believe the question is actually not settled, and not really litigated. The government can probably regulate how corporations may arm their employees and deploy those armed employees, but it's not clear what the limits on that power are.)

        • by Shakrai (717556) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @01:52PM (#31764000) Journal

          The government can probably regulate how corporations may arm their employees and deploy those armed employees, but it's not clear what the limits on that power are.

          Actually most corporations would be well within their rights to arm employees on their property. Very few states regulate the possession of weapons on private property. Those that do generally only regulate a small subset of weapons, typically handguns and so-called "assault rifles". Certain subsets of private property may be regulated by law (you can't legally possess a firearm at a mental health institution in most states) but for the most part it's up to the property owner to determine who can carry weapons.

          You'll note that many small retail businesses in the United States opt to keep a firearm on the premises as a deterrent against robbery. With few exceptions (New York City) the state doesn't generally attempt to regulate this behavior.

          • by Trepidity (597)

            I could be wrong, but I think there's some gray area. Many states consider an organized group of employees who're armed by the company to provide security for the company (as opposed to just employees who carry personal guns) to be "security guards", and some have extensive regulations on them. For example, in California, armed security guards have to obtain a license after passing a state-mandated training course--- so Google couldn't just arm all its engineers, unless it also got them all security-guard l

    • by Hatta (162192)

      That Bush argued that the executive was allowed to unilaterally search due to a commander in chief doctrine was what really got him in trouble with the left, and, I think on that score the lefties were correct.

      Expecting the President to follow the law isn't a leftist belief. Replace "left" with "non-fascist" and you come closer to reality.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by OctaviusIII (969957)
        Ugh, no. That's not it, either. At the risk of being misinterpreted as defending fascism, let me just say this: the ONLY governments that ignore the rule of law are tyrannies. Julius Caesar's rise to power was illegal; Auschwitz, terrible though it was, was not. Fascism actually highly values the rule of law. The strict militarism, the demands for obedience, and extreme nationalism philosophically cannot allow for legal malleability, even at the top. Petty monarchs of ages past and dictators of today
        • by Hatta (162192)

          Fair enough. My point was really that even conservatives, traditionally "the right" in America, would be just as upset with Bush's trampling of the constitution. Conservatives believe in small government, and the rule of law. On both counts Bush's warrantless wiretapping, etc, fails. Opposition to Bush came from both the left and the right. Those who supported him were something else entirely. If fascism is technically incorrect, we can just call them authoritarians. Calling them neo-conservatives d

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Julius Caesar's rise to power was illegal; Auschwitz, terrible though it was, was not.

          In fact, you have these completely backwards.

          Caesar's rise was to power was largely no more or less legal than most Roman standards at the time, in fact mirroring Pompey's earlier rise. He himself was subjected to several injustices before finally deciding to cross the Rubicon. In the end, as was typical of Roman politics, he who controlled the army controlled the state, and Caesar was appointed Dictator for life by a vote

    • by mooingyak (720677)

      That Bush argued that the executive was allowed to unilaterally search due to a commander in chief doctrine was what really got him in trouble with the left
       
      ... but up until that point the left was absolutely thrilled to have Bush around.

  • by elucido (870205) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @12:44PM (#31763010)

    The big brother government uses twitter to track what you are doing, uses facebook to investigate you and your friends, uses google to try and figure out what you think.

    The FBI exists specifically as an intelligence agency to spy on American citizens. So when random people add you as a friend on facebook it could be the beginning of an FBI investigation.

    And ignorance of the law wont hold up in court, so if you don't know whats in the 1000+ page healthcare reform bill, or the tens of thousands of pages of new laws which pass each year, you could already be breaking some esoteric law and committing a felony.

    And thats all you need to do to get the FBI to investigate you. So you better not talk about anything criminal.

  • by peter303 (12292) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @12:45PM (#31763018)
    "No facts to see here. Move along" -Obiwan Kenobi
  • Ask Eric Schmidt (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudsonNO@SPAMbarbara-hudson.com> on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @12:47PM (#31763068) Journal
    "If you're doing something you don't want people to know about - STOP DOING IT!"

    I don't know how many times I've been criticized for pointing out that gmail TOS do not include anonymity - the government can just ask and google will roll over on you - it's nice to see others finally "getting it."

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Yes, if the government uses legal means to ask for the data, they will get it. Just like ANY OTHER EMAIL PROVIDER. Do you think your ISP won't do the same?

      There is no news here, just an opinion piece.

      ""If you're doing something you don't want people to know about - STOP DOING IT!"
      and THAT is the stupidest thing I have read in a long time.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by sopssa (1498795) *

        I do actually [cnet.com] think so [techdirt.com]. These ISP's clear your traffic data and have gone to court to defend your privacy and won. Some mail providers do the same, and some utilize encryption so that they wouldn't even have access to your emails even if they needed to.

      • by tomhudson (43916)
        No, google has said that they will supply the data without a warrant. They just have to believe that the requesting agency might be able to get a warrant if push comes to shove. This is not "legal means." Google p0wns anyone stupid enough to use their web mail. Get a real email account.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheCycoONE (913189)

      "If you're doing something you don't want people to know about - STOP DOING IT!"

      - sounds like the antithesis to freedom... just saying.

    • "If you're doing something you don't want people to know about - STOP DOING IT!"

      First I thought I should give you an example or two what legal things some people do that they wouldn't want anyone to know about.

      Then I read your signature and realized you probably know more examples than I do.

  • It Depends (Score:3, Insightful)

    by b4upoo (166390) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @12:48PM (#31763080)

    If a person is sending email to those suspected of contributing to terror groups then our government needs to be able to study those emails. That does not imply that the government has either the intention or the man power to be studying every trivial bit of email that we send or receive.

    • Re: It Depends (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Marcika (1003625) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @01:06PM (#31763394)

      If a person is sending email to those suspected of contributing to terror groups then our government needs to be able to study those emails. That does not imply that the government has either the intention or the man power to be studying every trivial bit of email that we send or receive.

      1. "Terrorism" is a very loosely defined word in the US these days.
      2. "The government" might not have the intention or manpower to snoop on Jane Harmless, but the disgruntled ex-husband in the local sheriff's department might. Especially if there is a handy fully automated subpoena tool available for all kinds of "law enforcement".

    • by number11 (129686)

      If a person is sending email to those suspected of contributing to terror groups then our government needs to be able to study those emails.

      And it's very convenient that "terror" is anything anybody in "our government" (down to and including the local sheriff) defines it as. The FBI has admitted that their agents have committed widespread abuses of the law in asking telcos and ISPs for data.

      That does not imply that the government has either the intention or the man power to be studying every trivial bit of

  • Being intentionally vague about whether they share data is not the same thing as "Giving the US Government Access to Gmail"

  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JustinOpinion (1246824) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @12:50PM (#31763124)
    The article fails on numerous levels.
    1. It cross-compares two different rights issues: censorship and privacy (specifically contrasting Google's rhetoric against government censorship with their compliance to discovery requests under US law). It isn't necessarily inconsistent to argue against censorship but not worry about privacy.
    2. Google's compliance with US legal discovery requests (under PATRIOT and other laws) is used to imply that Google advocates breaching privacy. The fact that Google complies with the law isn't evidence that they agree with the law. Indeed they specifically say (and have demonstrated, as far as I can tell) that they fight discovery requests and only deliver private data when the request is necessary/legitimate.
    3. The article is also contrasting governmental policies (censorship, etc.) with policies of a private company (Google). The article states "We have far less power over Google." which is true in some sense (Google is not beholden to democracy directly... though it is controlled through laws and through consumer pressure/choice). But this "we have less power over Google" has to be counter-balanced with "Google has far less power over us". If the government mandates censorship, then every citizen and company is affected. If Google mandates censorship on its own, consumers will flock to other services. The difference is huge, and actions taken by government are far more scary because they are far further reaching.
    4. Also, no evidence of Google breaching privacy is actually provided. Certainly no evidence that there is a systemic problem; merely that Google is acknowledging that they will comply with US law.

    Really the article is just a weak attempt to set-up some a non-existent conflict between Google's open stance against censorship, and their grudging compliance with US discovery laws that could infringe on privacy. But the argument is laughably weak. I'm not trying to give Google a free pass here... but let's focus on the real issues and not trumped-up hypocrisy charges.
    • Agreed. Companies need to comply with local laws and legal record requests by government agencies, or private parties as dictated by the courts and the law of the host country. The distinction is that China is not ruled by "law", per se, it's ruled by power and the "lawmaking" process is opaque. Unlike democracies, the lawmaking process is not open to public scrutiny.
  • by geekoid (135745)

    A) Sharing information with the Government is not censoring. These are two different issues, and comparing them isn only used to appeal to emotion.

    I am not defending either of them, just stating that they aren't really comparable.

    B) They are talking about legal request for information.

    itNews is just trying to drum up revenue.


  • I most definitely don't store my critical data using remote email, despite the temptation, however, I do know colleagues that do. I shall pass this information on.

    google=evil, time to move on
  • by Tridus (79566) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @01:00PM (#31763284) Homepage

    Last year Google gave a presentation to the government I work for (which is not in the US). They made a big pitch as a sizable part of that presentation to try to convince us to move off Exchange and to the commercial Gmail offering. There's some pretty good reasons why that's a good idea.

    Unfortunately, stuff like this kills the idea entirely. There is absolutely no sales pitch that will convince people here that we really want to turn over our government email to the US government. (Hell, with the way things are going now we don't even allow people to take laptops with anything on them across the border, even if they're encrypted.)

  • by linuxguy (98493) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @01:00PM (#31763294) Homepage

    Almost sounds like the guy who submitted the "story" works for Microsoft. "Google *may* be sharing data with govt. Time to get super mad at Google!"

    Sensationalist stuff like this really pisses me off. CmdrTaco posted the story and sure got some ad impressions as a result. But man, do you really have to sink this low?

  • The title should have read: Google is big and scary because a government might serve a warrant on it!

    Yeah, imagine that, a government might serve a f#$%ing warrant or something equivalent on Google in compliance with its legal code, which Google can find out about in advance of moving to the country or leave if it gets too onerous.

    What is different here is that the USA PATRIOT Act still works within our legal system; China didn't even bother working within its own legal system. The day that the NSA starts e

  • Sometimes when the government subpoenas an ISP for data on a specific customer, they request that this be done in a way that won't let the customer know. You can imagine the nature of criminal investigations that would call for this. The Google policy discussed here may very be for dealing with those types of cases. It's not logically correct to assume that this means Google is secretly sharing all e-mail data with a government.
  • Perhaps someone should tell Mr. Winterford that it is actually possible to not use Gmail. In fact, it is possible to not use any Google services at all. Furthermore, he can make that decision on an individual basis: no need to convince a majority of fellow voters to go along with him as he must do in order to change his government.

  • Nobody sends email to my gmail address anyways. Seriously. I don't even have any spam in there currently, I guess I'm just not interesting...
  • by joeszilagyi (635484) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @01:46PM (#31763964)

    Use PGP or some other encryption method of the content itself. ONLY connect to your mail servers via SSL--no exceptions, ever. Store NOTHING on the local machine, be it your iPhone, your laptop, your desktop. Build your own OS that connects to your mail server and build your own mail client software so that you know there are no possible backdoors. Build your own mail server the same. Routinely re-encrypt your entire remote mail store with the highest end encryption available. Don't store keys with the mail store. Don't save ANY mail logs. If you do, encrypt them just as tightly.

    Next, only mail with people that use comparable basic levels of security.

    Finally, don't mail anyone.

    • by cpghost (719344)
      And then, the friendly TEMPEST guys in black vans will sniff all your electromagnetic interferences, while you're re-encrypting your precious data...
  • FTFA:

    "The Patriot Act introduced by President Bush - which allows US authorities to search telecommunications and email communications to fight the 'war on terror' - was not designed by Google. But complying with it places the company in an awkward position."

    This places ALL email providers, even me, in this untenable situation. If we wish to ensure our users' privacy, we have no real choice but to shut down. Or change the law.

    Google, Yahoo!, Hotmail, etc. will have a hard time lobbying for a change in the

    • by Dan667 (564390)
      the problem is that a lot of actual intelligence gathering where real people actually go out and collect information have been replaced by electronic information gathering. It is a dumb decisions as you can see from the numerous security breaches and terrorist attacks (like 9/11). They need to go back to actual intelligence gathering with actual people.
  • Google is just like the all the other companies in the US. If they don't comply with the government, their business will become very difficult.

    Why do people think this is Google's fault? We should be blaming the government for having the power and authority to force companies in the first place.

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