Google Sides With Yahoo In Email Privacy Dispute

Companies, privacy groups (sort of) win against DOJ

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Quite often, a Yahoo loss works out to be a Google win, and it would come as no surprise to see the second company make the first fight its own legal battles.  But Google – along with several other organizations – is attempting to help Yahoo, now, as the Department of Justice is pressing for access to certain Yahoo Mail messages.

Late last year, Yahoo was ordered to turn over some emails, with the idea being that emails in "electronic storage" weren’t as protected as messages on people’s computers.  The company declined to share everything, and a fight with the DOJ erupted as a result.

Yahoo, Google, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Progress and Freedom Foundation, and TRUSTe believe Yahoo took the correct approach, though.

So as reported by Declan McCullagh, these organizations stated yesterday in a friend-of-the-court brief, "Society expects and relies on the privacy of e-mail messages just as it relies on the privacy of the telephone system.  Indeed, the largest e-mail services are popular precisely because they offer users huge amounts of computer disk space in the Internet ‘cloud’ within which users can warehouse their e-mails for perpetual storage."

A win or loss here could have a significant effect on the reputation of cloud computing, then.

UPDATE: The Department of Justice has backed down.  A crucial point is that it hasn’t admitted any fault – a new official motion states, "the government has concluded that further production of records and information by Yahoo would not be helpful to the government’s investigation" – but Yahoo will not be asked to surrender any emails in the absence of a search warrant at this time.

Google Sides With Yahoo In Email Privacy Dispute
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  • http://googlepayday-review.blogspot.com/ James

    It is nice to see Google and Yahoo are together for some good cause..

  • Stupidscript

    Lots of damage has already been done to cloud computing, but most people just don’t realize it, yet.

    There is a decent lay-explanation of the Stored Communications Act (18 USC

    • Stupidscript

      IANAL, and its a good thing, too …

      All this time I have believed that a search warrant required disclosure to the entity being searched, however the document I referenced makes it clear that this is not the case.

      No disclosure is required in the case of (1) subpoena, (3) court order or (5) search warrant. There are two intermediary states where disclosure IS required: (2) subpoena with disclosure and (4) court order with disclosure, and in either case the disclosure may be delayed until after the data has been obtained. See Section D of the document for the lay explanation.

      Sorry ’bout that … it’s even worse than I had previously thought.

  • http://asaprental.com Brian

    I think we need to push our political representitives into bringing forth clear privacy laws for the internet. We have measured privacy laws for the use of mail and telephones. It is time for the law to properly recognize the internets arrival.

  • http://www.searchengineoptimization.co.uk mike

    It rare to see both on single platform for any issue but its good to see

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