Google Sides With Yahoo In Email Privacy Dispute

    April 16, 2010

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.