U.S. judge OKs warrant for Google user's emails, stoking debate

Fri Jul 18, 2014 5:42pm EDT
 
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By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge in New York has granted prosecutors access to a Gmail user's emails as part of a criminal probe, a decision that could fan the debate over how aggressively the government may pursue data if doing so may invade people's privacy.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein said Friday he had authorized a warrant to be served on Google Inc for the emails of an unnamed individual who is the target of a money laundering investigation.

Gorenstein said his decision ran counter to several other judges' rulings in similar cases that sweeping warrants give the government improper access to too many emails, not just relevant ones.

But he said the law lets investigators review broad swaths of documents to decide which are covered by warrants.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

The ruling came three months after U.S. Magistrate Judge James Francis in New York said prosecutors can force Microsoft Corp to hand over a customer's email stored in an Ireland data center.

Microsoft has appealed, in what is seen as the first challenge by a company to a warrant seeking data stored overseas.

Companies including Verizon Communications Inc, AT&T Inc, Cisco Systems Inc and Apple Inc have filed briefs in support of Microsoft, as has the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocacy group. A hearing is set for July 31 before U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska in New York.   Continued...

 
An employee answers phone calls at the switchboard of the Google office in Zurich August 18, 2009.   REUTERS/Christian Hartmann