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Judge Orders Deleted Emails Turned Over

Zonk posted about 8 years ago | from the that-is-a-lot-of-mash-letters dept.


Anonymous Coward writes "In a lawsuit brought by the Federal Trade Commission, a subpoena sent to Google orders the turnover of the complete contents of a Gmail account, including deleted e-mail messages. The Judge has granted the subpoena and orders that all e-mail messages, including deleted messages, be divulged. Google's privacy policy says deleted e-mail messages 'may remain in our offline backup systems' in perpetuity. It does not guarantee that backups are ever deleted. So much for the Delete Forever button."

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oh! (2, Funny)

Janek Kozicki (722688) | about 8 years ago | (#14942321)

Nothing for you to see here. Please move along.

oh, really?

Re:oh! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#14942464)

Mods, this is not funny, this joke is old and tired and I'm not even sure this error actually occurs anymore.

Re:oh! (1)

eln (21727) | about 8 years ago | (#14942532)

It does. If you click on a story within a few minutes of it appearing on the front page, you're very likely to see that message.

And much like any Slashdot cliche, the joke can still be funny if applied in a topical fashion, as it was here.

Hate to say 'I told you so', but... (4, Interesting)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | about 8 years ago | (#14942322)


I've maintained before [slashdot.org] that Google retains far too much information to make the use of Gmail anything less than a full-blown privacy nightmare. (For more information, please look here [epic.org] and here [gmail-is-too-creepy.com].)

And now, the chickens have come home to roost. From TFA:
The subpoena asks for not only current e-mail but also deleted e-mail: "All documents concerning all Gmail accounts of Baker...for the period from Jan. 1, 2003, to present, including but not limited to all e-mails and messages stored in all mailboxes, folders, in-boxes, sent items and deleted items, and all links to related Web pages contained in such e-mail messages."
A stunning victory for the Establishment and a horror show for private citizens everywhere. Welcome to 1984.

And before you start, please don't object that the person affected is a defendant in a criminal proceeding, because that's quite beside the point. The point is that Google has this information on you, and will hand it over upon request. This vindicates the caterwauling of all the privacy advocates concerning Google and Gmail, and establishes a dangerous legal precedent. Remember, as our 'inalienable' rights are systematically stripped away by the architects of the New World Order, more and more of the things you do become 'illegal'...and subject to criminal persecution...er...prosecution. It might not be long before you are being referred to as 'defendant'...what will you think of your Gmail account then?

Re:Hate to say 'I told you so', but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#14942339)


I've maintained before [slashdot.org] that Google retains far too much information to make the use of Gmail anything less than a full-blown privacy nightmare.

Yes ... Thank you Captain Obvious

Re:Hate to say 'I told you so', but... (2, Informative)

The Snowman (116231) | about 8 years ago | (#14942355)

This is one more reason why my email is a regular old email account and I access it via secure POP/SMTP. If I want to delete email, I can do it myself and make sure that it is gone forever. Maybe I'm paranoid. Better safe than sorry.

I think the real issue here is control. By allowing Google to control your email, you are forced to stand helpless when shit like this happens. Google may offer nice services, but do you really want to give up control over your personal data such as emails? I don't.

Re:Hate to say 'I told you so', but... (5, Insightful)

eln (21727) | about 8 years ago | (#14942403)

Your ISP presumably backs up customer mail on a regular basis, and keeps those backups for God knows how long. POP accounts are no more secure than webmail accounts when talking about "deleted" mail.

Re:Hate to say 'I told you so', but... (2, Informative)

TheSkyIsPurple (901118) | about 8 years ago | (#14942434)

Sorry, but If your email was ever on a computer (trust me, it was), and that computer was backed up when your email was on it (you hope it was), you're still open (oh crap).

Whoever your provider is just needs to be subpoena'd, and voila... everything you thought you removed is back in action.

Re:Hate to say 'I told you so', but... (1)

LeonGeeste (917243) | about 8 years ago | (#14942510)

That record of the email wouldn't be admissible in court. The chain of custody would be broken, and there's no telling what the offline, backed up computer did to it before saving it. I could just make up a bunch of emails I got from you that were "deleted everywhere else".

Re:Hate to say 'I told you so', but... (2, Funny)

eln (21727) | about 8 years ago | (#14942359)

I agree with you that gmail takes way too many liberties with personal privacy, but really any mail system other than your own will have a similar issue. Presumably, all of the webmail providers backup their data, and store it offline for unspecified lengths of time, and presumably they would all be subject to subpoenas for that information.

Even if you store mail on your own servers, there is no guarantee that the same mail isn't stored somewhere else, such as say the Sent Messages folder of whoever sent it to you. The only way to maintain privacy is to not discuss private matters through email.

Much like those naked pictures of yourself taken at that frat party in 1983, you must assume that once a piece of information makes its way on to the Internet, it is not going to remain private.

Sigh (2, Insightful)

Benanov (583592) | about 8 years ago | (#14942374)

Time to cancel some webmail accounts. I'm sure Yahoo and/or MSN (which I quit using long ago) will do this too.

I doubt I can set up my own MTA...any good howto's out there, or should I *urp* google it? :)

Re:Hate to say 'I told you so', but... (1)

IAmTheDave (746256) | about 8 years ago | (#14942390)

A stunning victory for the Establishment and a horror show for private citizens everywhere. Welcome to 1984.

TMM - I've got you on my friend's list, but I've gotta be honest, this is hardly a Google thing. Any large free provider - Hotmail, Yahoo, etc. have massive backup libraries going back months if not years. Short of running your own mail server, this sort of backup is inevitable.

A stunning victory for the Establishment and a horror show for private citizens everywhere. Welcome to 1984.

Here, I agree with you whole heartedly.

Re:Hate to say 'I told you so', but... (1)

IAmTheDave (746256) | about 8 years ago | (#14942420)

Wow, that was bad editing. First quote should have been I've maintained before [slashdot.org] that Google retains far too much information to make the use of Gmail anything less than a full-blown privacy nightmare.

BTW - TMM - how many first-posts have you racked up? ;)

Re:Hate to say 'I told you so', but... (5, Insightful)

AKAImBatman (238306) | about 8 years ago | (#14942413)

Before you fly off the handle here, keep in mind that Google has only been ordered to produce the emails. What will be interesting is whether or not Google is able to produce the emails. If so, how many of them will they be able to retrieve? The subpoena itself - which is scary, but unfortunately a part of the legal system - is really secondary to this. A judge can't magically make deleted data reappear, no matter what they order. But if the data is not deleted... well... then your fears are fully justified.

I've always wondered if that clause was more of a CYA clause meant to get around the fact that plenty of stuff may remain in the GoogleFS for a period of time after it has been "deleted", but without a live index. The results here may very well show if that is true or not.

Re:Hate to say 'I told you so', but... (1)

NewWorldDan (899800) | about 8 years ago | (#14942512)

It will indeed be interesting (not that we're likely to be privy to it) to see how many deleted emails Google is able to produce. I would think that such a request would involve pulling every backup going back to the creation of the account and looking for messages not already recovered. I'd also like to know what sort of fee (if any) Google charges for this. While it may not be too difficult to pull up the live data, sorting through backups could involve a lot of man hours and be quite costly.

Re:Hate to say 'I told you so', but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#14942415)

It is not beside the point that the persone affected is a defendant. A supoena is not a request; it is an order. Google is not just handing over this guys emails because the government asked. And Google, as far as I know, has not yet complied. So to say that this is 1984 realized is rediculous. I'd be more apt to agree with that if this were about the US government's illegal wiretaps. A subpoena for email records is just like a subpoena for paper records. This will not lead to a war with Eurasia nor will the government gain the ability to watch you through your tv just because a judge ordered Google to hand over email records.

Re:Hate to say 'I told you so', but... (1)

1u3hr (530656) | about 8 years ago | (#14942422)

Google retains far too much information to make the use of Gmail anything less than a full-blown privacy nightmare

Why more so than Hotmail, Yahoo, or any other webmail? I'm sure all their "privacy" promises are at least as loose as Google's. It only remains a question how much data Google has actually retained. Though they don't guarantee to delete mail when trashed, in practice they probably do eventually, and the case concerns events two or three years ago.

Re:Hate to say 'I told you so', but... (5, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | about 8 years ago | (#14942627)

Why more so than Hotmail, Yahoo, or any other webmail? I'm sure all their "privacy" promises are at least as loose as Google's.

While any ISP, including your local pop3 box provider would likely comply with this request...

Only google claims to want to "organize all the worlds information", including the information *you* no longer value, like old emails you've deleted. They have value to them for their profiling/advertising efforts.

While any ISP *might* have an incidental backup of your email going back 3 years. Google is the only one that is likely to be systematically going to the trouble of keeping your email, all of it, going back forever.

It only remains a question of how much data Google has actually retained. Though they don't guarantee to delete mail when trashed, in practice they probably do eventually, and the case concerns events two or three years ago.

Exactly. No other ISP is likely to be able to produce much more than an incidental or partial backup that far back; but nobody here will be surprised if Google can bring back everything. (Complete with relevant ads down one side.)

Re:Hate to say 'I told you so', but... (5, Interesting)

MyNymWasTaken (879908) | about 8 years ago | (#14942440)

If you're concerned about your privacy, why are you sending sensitive information in the clear over email; through any provider?

Use PGP!

And would you mind telling me how gmail is any different than hotmail or yahoo mail in regards to managent's access to email contents?

what will you think of your Gmail account then?

"I refuse to divulge my PGP private key & passphrase."

Re:Hate to say 'I told you so', but... (1)

IcEMaN252 (579647) | about 8 years ago | (#14942454)

This sounds to me like some two-bit lawyer looked at his Outlook to try to figure out everywhere an email could possibly be. "...sent items and deleted items..." sounds to me like a list of two folders. In a normal email client, something in you "deleted items" isn't really deleted. The difference is that GMails 'delete forever' isn't really like deleting from deleted items, it just hides the message.

This is bad phraseology and bad lawyering. It will create bad law, but its not the end of society as we know it.

As for precedential value, IANAL, but as far as I understand it, a higher court would have to affirm the lower court's decision before it is truly binding on other courts.

You're Not Wrong, BUT... (4, Insightful)

Alaren (682568) | about 8 years ago | (#14942456)

I agree that there are definite privacy concerns about GMail. What I think you're doing, however, is mistaking Google's full disclosure for some kind of unique and sinister plot.

Google warns that "delete forever" does not mean that the message is necessarily gone. Their offline backup servers may contain copies of your messages in perpetuity. Can you think of why this might be?

Because I can. Like any responsible data company, they don't want you to lose important data... so they back it up. Independently. Into offline storage. And when you click the "delete forever" button, your message is not magically removed from media that is not connected to the system.

Google discloses this all very plainly. I use gmail, and while I guard my privacy, I recognize that electronic communication of any kind flat out has different risks than other kinds of communication. Life is full of risks, but the risks you take with Google are much easier to calculate than the risks you take with other companies.

Specifically, do you think Hotmail has an offline backup system? Yahoo? Juno? If they don't, you may lose some very important data... but I suspect that they do, and if they do, then they have this exact same problem When you delete things from their servers, do their tapes or whatever magically erase the same stuff?

Of course not.

But I don't see them warning anyone about that fact... so pick your poison. Google could probably violate your privacy at some point or another, and they are telling you that up front. Any other service you use could do the very same thing, but I don't see them coming right out and admitting it. Do you?

Re:Hate to say 'I told you so', but... (1)

timster (32400) | about 8 years ago | (#14942461)

Why should I care if they have backups of recipes from my mom? If I was planning the next revolution, I hope I'd use a different kind of communications system, not plan-text emails from a commercial Web provider. Why is it a victory for the "Establishment" if I don't care who reads some of my emails?

Re:Hate to say 'I told you so', but... (4, Insightful)

geoffspear (692508) | about 8 years ago | (#14942619)

Erosion of the expectation of privacy actually diminishes your rights to privacy. The 4th Amendment's use the the word "unreasonable" to describe what sorts of searches and seizures are forbidden makes this a problem.

What someone in 1789 considered "reasonable" might be very different from what someone today considers "reasonable". Imagine what sort of things a person will consider to be "reasonable" when they grew up expecting that the government would read their personal email and that they shouldn't care because they've got nothing to hide.

Re:Hate to say 'I told you so', but... (1)

msuzio (3104) | about 8 years ago | (#14942469)

Judges have been ordering access to email accounts and other private data for years. GMail just happens to be an email provider which has a greater ability to deliver such data. Your ISP of choice could have gotten an order like this anytime in the last 10 years - it's no different than any other subpoena ordering access to records which the judge (right or wrong) thinks are relevant to the case.

So, nothing stunning here. *twirls finger in the air* Big whoop.

Use encryption if you don't want people to read your email. That's been true for... well, forever in the email world.

Another point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#14942478)

How can we trust deleted mail to tell the whole story. Couldnt one can have said something and then took it all back? What if the deleted mail was sent by someone else and deleted? Etc. Anyway whatever, seems more and more people choose/want easiest path to conviction rather than complete investigation for truth. All for the supposed "overall good" (although actually just selfish convenience) and cheapness.

It's obvious the way it was worded that it is an intrinsic human right ..not something given as some sort of gift or benefit of a social contract.

More and more people seem to think 4th amendment is a revokable privilege and unrelated to ensuring real truth and justice. The 4th amendment was created because it will protect innocent people from injustice and wrong fast conclusions.

Re:Hate to say 'I told you so', but... (2, Funny)

maelstrom (638) | about 8 years ago | (#14942483)

But but but, Google has a web page that says they won't be evil! This can not be!

Re:Hate to say 'I told you so', but... (5, Insightful)

szembek (948327) | about 8 years ago | (#14942488)

The point is that Google has this information on you, and will hand it over upon request

I think this would be better stated if you replace "will hand it over upon request" with "must hand it over when ordered to by a judge". I see a big difference there.

Re:Hate to say 'I told you so', but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#14942499)

I think you're being a bit paranoid. The subpoena is for one account belonging to a defendent, not a subpoena for a bunch of random accounts. The request by the judge is legitimate. This is no different if it was AOL, Earthlink, or the company's own mail server.

Re:Hate to say 'I told you so', but... (5, Funny)

IDontAgreeWithYou (829067) | about 8 years ago | (#14942524)

Yeah, I mean you wouldn't want the following email message to get out into the public

to: MOM
from: TripMasterMonkey
Subject: Second Post :(

Mom, I only got second post on the slashdot story about Gmail. Well, at least I got +5 interesting for mentioning 1984. If you need me, I'll be in the basement. A new story is coming out in 5 minutes and I have to do some serious copying and pasting and then mention privacy concerns. See you upstairs later tonight for dinner.

Love, Your son TMM ^_^

Re:Hate to say 'I told you so', but... (4, Insightful)

serutan (259622) | about 8 years ago | (#14942555)

Maybe I'm missing something, but since when does email exist in a different universe than any other kind of mail? Courts have always had the power to subpoena (or whatever the legal term is) personal correspondence. This new ruling doesn't require Google to keep anybody's email forever, Google already does that on their own. The court is simply demanding to see specific correspondence during a specific time period. Same as it could demand a stack of love letters in someone's dresser drawer. People who want to keep their mail secret forever should burn it, and those same people shouldn't use GMail.

Privacy is a shield, not a sword! (1)

redelm (54142) | about 8 years ago | (#14942565)

Privacy is all well and good, but is it a tool that should be allowed to hide wrongdoing? No. The US Constitution is very clear on the matter. "Warrents shall issue ..."

In a civil trial, subpoenae are available for all information in anyone's possession. Deleted or archived too, so long as someone still has it. No penalty if not. It's all potentially evidence. If it's fishing, then object to the judge. S/he'll decide on the merits. Do you want courts to work without evidence?

Re:Hate to say 'I told you so', but... (1)

Surt (22457) | about 8 years ago | (#14942588)

They're not exactly handing over information on request. They're handing it over upon demand. Demand ultimately backed by the force of the US Army.

That aside, if you have information you need to keep private from the government, you should never let it travel over the public infrastructure. It could be cached and stored at any point along the way, and GMail is just a particularly obvious target point for the government to slurp that information.

Re:Hate to say 'I told you so', but... (1)

BewireNomali (618969) | about 8 years ago | (#14942601)

Interestingly enough, this is why I use gmail. I'm a freelancer, so I often do business and hammer out the details of a potential transaction via email. gmail allows me to eaisly categorize and track even innocuous conversations. I can confirm previously discussed terms - whether a vendor is backsliding on previously discussed terms, etc. It's a great way to keep on top of minutiae. I've even goten to being the friendly guy who sends invites to those interested in using gmail - if only so I can chat more easily and index those as well.

email is one of those things. One of my favorite movies is this movie from the 90s called Dark City. Kiefer Sutherland says something to the effect of: "The only place you're safe is in your head." Assume a camera is always on you, assume that everything you put into the world will be recorded for posterity.

Re:Hate to say 'I told you so', but... (1)

truesaer (135079) | about 8 years ago | (#14942603)

Well what the fuck do you expect them to do? Dispatch a guy the moment you press the delete button to find all backups and remove that one message from them?

If you don't want there ever to be evidence of a communication don't send it in a stored electronic medium. This is just a fact of email and it applies to a lot more than just GMail, don't send anything by email that you don't want someone to be able to subpoena.

You get what you pay for. (1)

tecie (834046) | about 8 years ago | (#14942611)

It's NOT a stunning victory for the establishment. It's common sense that this can, does, and will continue to happen as email and electronic formats become the predominant form of official communication. Google is complying with a lawful legal order. Anyone who has an ounce of experience maintaining a database knows that you NEVER delete anything forever. If something comes up... like say a crime is committed, then you have a table of deleted items that's never purged until it's offloaded someplace. And then you keep the transaction logs in another location, just in case you need to track someone. The idea that you get a free email account from a massive search engine and then would get total privacy? It's laughable. If you want security, you as a consumer should use the free POP mail account that every ISP I've encountered in the last five years gives customers. Then delete emails off the servers. If you're really concerned about the security, encrypt your email, or better yet encrypt your emails and have your own server. My point is, you get what you pay for.

How is this different than the physical world? (1)

fgodfrey (116175) | about 8 years ago | (#14942628)

If I throw something in my trash or run it through a shredder or put it in recycling and then set it out on my curb, it could, conceivably, wind up as evidence in a court proceeding. Unless you have a "confidential recycling" company (like those at many corporations), you haven't signed an agreement where your trash company guarantees that everything you throw away will decompose. I'm quite certain that Waste Management would have no problem turning over your garbage if presented with a subpeona.

I really don't see what the major concern here is. I'm very concerned when records get turned over without court orders, but without the ability to compell evidence to be turned over if there's probable cause (or whatever the legal standard for the subpeona is), how could *anyone* be prosecuted? You don't have a right to hide evidence of a crime. The only right you have in that area is that you can't personally be compelled to reveal incriminating evidence against yourself.

well then (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#14942338)

This is fine and dandy, good thing no one ever uses electronic mail accounts for things that may be construed as less than legal.

Easiest way to deal with this in 2 easy steps (3, Informative)

rikkards (98006) | about 8 years ago | (#14942342)

1. Stop using the web interface and enable POP
2. Start using a client and your favourite encryption software

Re:Easiest way to deal with this in 2 easy steps (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | about 8 years ago | (#14942363)

Using POP doesn't mean that your messages still won't be retained in gmail's 'backup system.'

Re:Easiest way to deal with this in 2 easy steps (1)

gte910h (239582) | about 8 years ago | (#14942387)

Doesn't matter if they're encrypted and you can't remember where the key is.... --michael

POP can delete client-side (2, Informative)

everphilski (877346) | about 8 years ago | (#14942460)

... but still retain every email server-side.

Remember, Google unabashadly says it wants to index the world's knowlege. Your emails, personal or not is part of that knowlege...

Re:Easiest way to deal with this in 2 easy steps (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 8 years ago | (#14942474)

Stop using free webmail. I've had to switch addresses 3 or 4 times because of webmail providers that I started to disagree with, either from dropping service, starting to charge for things that used to be free, or privacy issues such as this one. I instead bought my own domain name, so I never have to change my address again, and i got some cheap hosting. I know the hosting provider could read my mail or turn it over to the authorities, but I can also switch hosting providers pretty easily.

Re:Easiest way to deal with this in 2 easy steps (5, Informative)

Mostly a lurker (634878) | about 8 years ago | (#14942504)

Using the POP interface to Gmail, by default keeps a copy on the server. If you override this default, it then becomes deleted email that Google's privacy policy states 'may remain in our offline backup systems' in perpetuity.

Encryption would be the way to go with email if all your correspondents would agree to cooperate. In my case, there are perhaps two people I correspond with regularly via email who might consider making the effort.

Easier way to deal with this in 2 easy steps (5, Insightful)

digitaldc (879047) | about 8 years ago | (#14942526)

1. Buy stamps, envelopes & paper
2. Use the Postal Service

Re:Easier way to deal with this in 2 easy steps (1)

rikkards (98006) | about 8 years ago | (#14942615)

Yeah but the latency is a bitch. Plus isn't mail when in the mail system technically the property of the govt (speaking of US and Cdn govt)?

Re:Easier way to deal with this in 2 easy steps (1)

LeonGeeste (917243) | about 8 years ago | (#14942620)

The Postal Service sometimes takes longer to deliver messages than email.

email longevity & PGP (5, Insightful)

MyNymWasTaken (879908) | about 8 years ago | (#14942350)

All email messages exist in perpetuity. They can be stored as backups in any server that they touch between the sender & the receiver.

If you're concerned about the contents of your emails being divulged - USE (open/gnu/etc...)PGP!

If that is still too insecure for you, meet the recipient in the middle of the park for a strolling conversation; and don't forget the white noise generator.

Please !!!! (4, Interesting)

powerlord (28156) | about 8 years ago | (#14942375)

Someone think of the poor people that will have to read through all the spam that goes through one mailbox!!!

Heck ... I can picture the defense getting a 80GB archive tape and being told that was all messages recieved. Yes, 99.999% of them are spam. Enjoy.

Talk about burying the opposition in paperwork.

Re:Please !!!! (1)

ceejayoz (567949) | about 8 years ago | (#14942471)

Heck ... I can picture the defense getting a 80GB archive tape and being told that was all messages recieved. Yes, 99.999% of them are spam. Enjoy.

So they set up a Gmail account and forward them all to it. Let Gmail's spam filter do all the work - it has already seen those spams, after all.

Re:Please !!!! (1)

johnny cashed (590023) | about 8 years ago | (#14942632)

Yeah, he should have said: "I can picture the defense getting an 80 foot tall stack of paper and being told that it was all messages recieved"

Try to run that through Gmail's spam filter.

This is Why... (5, Insightful)

eno2001 (527078) | about 8 years ago | (#14942352)

...it makes much more sense to run your own mail server. That's what I do. I don't trust ANYONE but myself with my mail.

Re:This is Why... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#14942462)

so do you only email yourself? because most people don't run their own server and every msg you send or receive is being stored on somebody else's mail server.

email just isn't secure and 100% private. we all just need to accept it, however much it does suck. i hate it too, but it's the truth

The Government Hates Google (5, Interesting)

taylor_venable (911273) | about 8 years ago | (#14942356)

With everything that's been going on lately, it sounds like the American government really wants to take Google down in the war of public opinion. The gov't just keeps trying to make them look worse and worse. And since the American courts typically just allow the gov't to do whatever it wants, they're winning.

Re:The Government Hates Google (3, Insightful)

maelstrom (638) | about 8 years ago | (#14942545)

If you were a prosecutor with any amount of sense at all, wouldn't you request the same thing? It isn't some big conspiracy theory to hurt Google, this is someone doing their job, and a pretty good one from what it sounds like. It will be interesting to see what records pop up.

U R pwned. (5, Interesting)

Bob Cat - NYMPHS (313647) | about 8 years ago | (#14942365)

Hey, I happen to know YOUR company does backups! You deleted your mail from the server, but you didn't hunt down those tapes in the vault, did you? Huh?

Does NO ONE remember Ollie North and the White House PROFS system? 20 years later, and people still think incriminating data will always just go away when you desire.


Re:U R pwned. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#14942442)

Unless you're using Windows XP's "Move User Account" tool.

Re:U R pwned. (1)

sweetnjguy29 (880256) | about 8 years ago | (#14942506)

Your absolutely right. Most people don't appreciate that there are teams of lawyers and regulators that go through these taped backed up emails looking for violations of company policy and responding to government requests.

One other possibility (2, Interesting)

benjjj (949782) | about 8 years ago | (#14942370)

Might Google be under some sort of secret agreement with the gov't to hold on to emails, just for circumstances like these? It really doesn't make much sense from a storage perspective to keep around tons of deleted emails. If I were Google, the Delete Forever button would clear any deleted email off of my very crowded storage systems at the same time that it clears it out of a user's inbox.

There may be business value (1)

slashbob22 (918040) | about 8 years ago | (#14942502)

Google may get business value by storing deleted emails. Since their advertising is based on the collection and classification of individual users information. The reason we didn't see a delete button initially and why they now store the information in perpetuity is because they can know a great deal more about you that way. Google isn't necessarily being malicious but they do know a scary amount of information. By knowing more about you Google Strengthens their bottom line.

Re:One other possibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#14942581)

Apparently you have no idea about the type of business Google is really in. They are interested in archiving information. In order to do this they need information. If you are interested in programming but one day you delete all your programming-related e-mails, how does Google know you're still into programming? They keep this because they want to make their content targeting perfect. That is their goal. That is how they make money.

And regarding this entire thing...what company in their right mind doesn't keep information forever? Backups anybody? Anybody who thinks otherwise is the idiot admin who is going to lose their job b/c they didn't do backups.

Honestly....where's the story here?

Private Mail Server (1, Redundant)

mcrbids (148650) | about 8 years ago | (#14942378)

This is why I have almost always had my OWN PRIVATE MAIL SERVER, used by myself, friends, and family.

Perhaps it's overkill for the average Joe, but as a technology provider anyway, keeping my own server is economical, and provides me strong assurances of privacy.

I've NEVER trusted Gmail, Hotmail, or any other hosted application. I've never trusted those 3rd party "webmail gateways" that let you use your email address via a website.

It's not paranoia, it's just understanding that anybody who's not really on your side just might actually be out to get you!

Re:Private Mail Server (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#14942468)

What laws are you breaking in which you have a need to worry about the government searching your email...so much so that you have to run your own server?

Re:Private Mail Server (1)

rjstanford (69735) | about 8 years ago | (#14942559)

Do you ever make backups? If so, isn't it true that there's a period of time, possibly a month or more, when an email could have been deleted from your "Inbox" but still remain on a backup tape before it gets recycled?

Re:Private Mail Server (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#14942590)

keeping my own server is economical, and provides me strong assurances of privacy. (emp. mine)

Let's just hope that none of the other computers your email has been on has kept a record of it, and that the person you are sending to/receiving from has the same setup, and regularly deletes mails and any backups they might make, and shreds and burns any printouts, and demagnatizes the harddrives when they discard them, and uses a secure delete program (be careful - they might be supeoned at any time), and never reads the email in public, where there might be shoulder surfers or security cameras, and takes amnesia pills after reading your mail, and never talks about the contents of your mail with other people, and ...

It's not paranoia, it's just understanding that anybody who's not really on your side just might actually be out to get you!

Just never email anyone, or give anyone reason to email you, and you'll be safe!

P.S. Have you ever considered that people who you think are on your side might be out to get you, too?

(Posted anonymously for security purposes - you might be out to get me!)

Why save deleted message? (1, Redundant)

Gwarsbane (905113) | about 8 years ago | (#14942391)

I'm glad I don't use that service for anything important. After all when a message is deleted it should be gone. Not saved on some other server so that it can be used against me for some reason years down the road. I can't even really see saving it for a temp amount of time after its been deleted because there is no "undelete" feature (why should there be) and I'm sure if you contacted google and asked them to undelete a message you just deleted by mistake they would just laugh at you. If you delete something it should be gone, period.

Re:Why save deleted message? (2, Informative)

dmatos (232892) | about 8 years ago | (#14942626)

As others have pointed out above and below, what happens when Google runs a standard backup program _before_ you've deleted your email? It ends up on a tape, and that tape ends up in a fire-proof vault somewhere. Pushing the "delete" button does not cause that email on that tape in that vault to suddenly self-destruct.

Sure, it could take a lot of time, but under a subpoena, Google may be forced to go through all of their archive tapes and grab every piece of data from every time period they have recorded.

Encrypt everything. (2, Insightful)

Blackknight (25168) | about 8 years ago | (#14942398)

If you don't want other people to read your mail, encrypt it. They can subpoena your mail all they want, but without the private keys they won't be able to read it.

Re:Encrypt everything. (1)

redelm (54142) | about 8 years ago | (#14942509)

Won't work in a civil trial, where you most definitely can be compelled to turn over keys.

Re:Encrypt everything. (5, Informative)

brasscount (805811) | about 8 years ago | (#14942549)

Encrypt away, they'll subpoena the email, you're right. Then they'll subpoena the passphrase. If you don't comply with the subpoena for the passphrase, they'll obtain a search warrant, and find where you wrote it down, admit it, its in a card in your wallet, or in some pass store software, isn't it? Then they'll use good old fashioned forensics to decrypt the shadow cache and drag a list of passwords on your server out in the open.

And finally, if that doesn't work, they'll throw you in jail for contempt of court until such time as you do remember your passphrase.

Don't underestimate the power of the government to discover secrets, they've been in the business for years.

What concerns me more is this enforced compliance with a subpoena for a crime that might have been committed, but for which they have to conduct a search to determine if evidence exists that a crime was committed. This thing stinks to high heaven of unconstitutional and illegal search and seizure. Where are the lawyers screaming habeas corpus?

Re:Encrypt everything. (1)

acaben (80896) | about 8 years ago | (#14942562)

Uh, they can subpoena private keys, too. And if you don't they can hold you in contempt of court and send you to jail. Repeatedly.

Re:Encrypt everything. (1)

pcraven (191172) | about 8 years ago | (#14942631)

I was told by a local computer forensics guy that 5th ammendment has always worked here to protect people from having to divulge passwords. But if they can search the house and find it, or stick a keylogger and trick you into giving it, then you are SOL.

So if you really hate someone with a gmail account (2, Funny)

kalirion (728907) | about 8 years ago | (#14942402)

Hey buddy, Here's that kiddy porn you wanted. -Anonymous

Re:So if you really hate someone with a gmail acco (1)

carndearg (696084) | about 8 years ago | (#14942552)

That's what the "Report spam" button is for. If it happened to me I would probably report abuse [google.com] as well. That way I've covered my arse, if the Keystone Kops come round accusing me of looking at kiddie porn I can point to an action I've taken to mark the message as "Not mine guv!".

Re:So if you really hate someone with a gmail acco (1)

jaaronc (935420) | about 8 years ago | (#14942597)

We call that spam... And seeing as we live in an age where real life child molestors and rapists are "re-habilitated" instead of sentenced, I find it hard to believe that any judge would allow spam that you deleted to be entered in as evidence against you...

What do you execpt for free? (1)

solarbob (959948) | about 8 years ago | (#14942405)

All the infos there in the terms and conditiosn ( which no one reads ) and then there is an uproar when people find out via the courts what is going on. If you want privacy run your own email system, download things from your ISP or rent your own server. Privacy comes from you being proactive, not hoping someone else doesn't hack into your gmail account.

kept in backups (1)

Sergeant Beavis (558225) | about 8 years ago | (#14942409)

Honestly, who doesn't have backups of their email systems. When you run an Exchange server, you always backup the store. If I create a backup on March 1st and you delete an email on March 2nd, then I still have a copy of that email. EVERYONE does that. Yahoo, Hotmail, Bigfoot, and Gmail all make backups of their email storage. So if you delete a message before it is backed up, there is still a copy that can be restored.

The REAL question is, how long do they keep their backups? I have 4 tape sets of full and incremental backups. So my backups are kept for about a month.

The only log or email that can't be subpoenaed... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#14942428)

...is the one that doesn't exist. Stop creating unnecessary heaps of personal data. You know that even information which seems to be most innocuous can come back to bite you in the ass.

With apologies to Douglas Adams (5, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | about 8 years ago | (#14942447)

"Doing No Evil - a HOWTO Guide, presented in Socratic Dialogue form, courtesy of Zaphod Beeblebrox"

Google: The gmail documents may remain present in our offline backup system.
IRS: I eventually had to go down to the cellar...
Google: That's the offline backup system's machine room.
IRS: ... with a torch.
Google: Ah, the lights had probably gone.
IRS: So had the stairs.
Google: But you found the tape, didn't you?
IRS: Yes. It was backed up on paper tape stored in the bottom of a locked drawer beneath a PC04/PC05 tape reader with a dot-matrix printed sign on the door saying 'ACHTUNG! ALLES LOOKENSPEEPERS.' Ever thought of going into search technology?

Baleeted! (2, Funny)

RyoShin (610051) | about 8 years ago | (#14942459)

Let's hope that the U.S. Government never goes after Strongbad, or he could be in trouble.

Just a word of warning (2, Insightful)

tod_miller (792541) | about 8 years ago | (#14942466)

I gaurantee 100% of other email systems keep you 'deleted' emails in backups.,

100%, why?

Because it would time effort when you delete an email togo back and remove it from backups.

Just because google is the only one who drew light to this matter, doesn't mean that they are:

The first
The only

But the comments on here give me the impression that you guys think otherwise.

Does your own backup handle emails intelligently? Does it know not to backup deleted emails? (I am not saying it is impossible for mail server backups may do on account of space, who knows). But that is deleted emails.

What about will have soon to have been deleted emails? (red dwarf on temporal paradox)

You can go back and fetch that magnetic tape all over again, so wipe that smug 'my backup doesn't touch the trach folder' smile of your face you overweight fucking IT tech.

That's life in America (1, Funny)

rm999 (775449) | about 8 years ago | (#14942475)

Part of living in the USA is dealing with things like this. What it comes down to it, if you are suspected by the government of being a terrorist, you have no rights. This has been true in the US long before GW Bush.

I think invasions of privacy like this are terrible, but I won't scold the US because I understand that they are doing it to protect me and everyone else in my country. I know that it opens up abuse, but *maybe* reading someone's email will save another person's life (or a lot of people). If so, I don't think any rational person would think it was wrong (not in a moral sense, but a practical one) that the government read the e-mails. As a semi-liberterian I know these views are really odd, but I think that it is too easy to get caught up in ideals and forget that one of our government's few essential jobs is to protect us, and that is practically impossible without a few right-killing powers. Plus I like to play the devil's advocate.

To be somewhat on topic, I'll give my opinion: Google should probably work on deleting those e-mails faster, but perhaps, in the grand scheme of things, a saved incriminating e-mail may benefit the world.

how appropriate! (4, Interesting)

corbettw (214229) | about 8 years ago | (#14942482)

Considering my first meeting today was regarding how best to redesign the mail system to make it easier to comply withsubpoenas in the future. Step one of that redesign: turn off the backups!

Just more proof that the 'e' in email doesn't stand for 'electronic', it's 'evidence'.

Of course Google keeps email... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#14942487)

... it's the law. If memory serves me correctly, they have to keep them for seven years.

google should...... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#14942500)

google should natively support GPG for gmail and google desktop and encrypt all users personal data. yap, this process won't hamper googles personal add as email need to be decryptedbefore viewing via gmail on the web.

now i wounder can government order google to sniff the private key of all user too

Meet your new big brother: Google (1)

RubberDogBone (851604) | about 8 years ago | (#14942521)

Wonder when they'll acquire a big-screen "TV" company and just give them away for free -and how many saps will go for the freebie.

Google is your friend. Accept the free TV and enjoy.

(look ma: right topic this time! wheee!)

ha ha ha.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#14942523)

pwned! sux to use gmail!

Procedural Note (4, Insightful)

EconomyGuy (179008) | about 8 years ago | (#14942525)

It's worth noting that this fight isn't over yet. The defendant has lost his motion to squash the subpoena based on a privileged communications argument. That's really not surprising... the argument is tantamount to saying "I receive letters from my lawyer in the mail, so you can't have any of my mail." It's just not gonna fly in our civil justice system which has very liberal rules of discovery.

However, based on the article Google has not yet had the opportunity to respond to the subpoena. The third party can always move to squash, and that's where things will get interesting. Will Google be able to convince the court that certain messages are deleted and thus not retrievable. Or, perhaps, that the defendant believed he was deleting the messages and thus deserves to have the messages kept under lock?

These are questions only Google, as the third party, can raise. Now that the judge has issued the subpoena, Google is in a position to actually make those motions. And, if my legal education is worth anything, my money says Google/defendant will appeal if they lose because it's such a new area of the law that an Appeals Court really ought to announce a legal precedence.

Money transfers... (1)

ricepudd (960850) | about 8 years ago | (#14942539)

Ack, I'd better give my contact in Nigeria a different email address. Wouldn't want the tax man to find out about all the money I'm about to receive for helping out the poor chap with his financial problems!

1983 (1)

sinij (911942) | about 8 years ago | (#14942541)

This message is brought to you by The Ministry of Truth^H^H^H^H Federal Trade - BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU^H^H^H^H READING YOUR EMAILS

Yippee; How is it unusual? (3, Insightful)

PhYrE2k2 (806396) | about 8 years ago | (#14942543)

Yippee? SO they're asking for older backups from Google (as much as they have) in order too look at e-mail that may have been deleted in some sort of scramble before the order was in place. So what? Guess what? They order a history of transactions from your bank; They order a history of credit card purchases; They order a list of telephone calls from your telephone carrier; They order a list history from your ISP or employer.

So what? They're asking for a bit of a backlog. This is no surprise

Maybe this could have been prevented? (1)

Almighty Pallbearer (932080) | about 8 years ago | (#14942550)

I love google as much as the next guy, but some of these court battles are driving me insane. Couldn't google have prevented most of these legal snafus by simply not archiving irrelevant data? Yeah, I know they "say" it is used in order to improve their service to the end user, but I just don't know if I believe that or not. They wouldn't have to surrender any results if they don't backlog it. Why would you bother storing old e-mails the user wanted deleted? Attempt to document important company secrets? Blackmail? Fetish? As they say, there is no reason for them to keep this data since the text is scanned dynamically to generate their ads so the e-mails are still kept between you and the sender. So, why is it being kept after the email account holder doesn't want it anymore and deletes it? If it isn't important to the gmail account holder, should they even care?

You could argue that information has to be archived, kept just in case it could possibly be some sort of "proof" of illegal action by the user. Maybe someone admitted killing someone via a quick morning e-mail? Stole important company data and sent a bcc to their "hotgurl4u" gmail account just in case? I guess this is the mixed wonders of having a free email service. I suppose they need to get something out of the deal [keeping stuff].

Of course, half the respected deletions are probably recipes from various grandmothers. I wouldn't want to be caught dead with those in my box either...

Eh, just my two cents. I guess I am rambling

http://www.achieve360points.com/ [achieve360points.com]

The moral (3, Funny)

TheCarlMau (850437) | about 8 years ago | (#14942570)

The moral of this story is to never write down anything you don't want copied or seen by other eyes. I mean, look at the ancient Egyptians. We are reading their words today and they are hidden in booby-trapped tombs!

This is ridiculous! (1)

alchemistkevin (763955) | about 8 years ago | (#14942580)

It's ridiculous that just because the information is in electronic format and doesn't cost the Govt 'almost' any money to access it (apart of my hard earned money paid in tax), that they get their hands on it. shouldn't the same laws apply to them as entering in my house and snooping on my mail?!

Am I the only one who doesn't care? (1)

NYTrojan (682560) | about 8 years ago | (#14942624)

Am I the only one who doesn't care about privacy? I mean hell, I don't really have any to begin with. The grocery stores know what I eat, you can find out how much I make online easily enough, and anybody can find out what I buy / where I buy it / pay in rent / pay in loans / what I make in salary via a quick and easy credit check. I'm sure if you want it you can find my SNN easily enough

Maybe I'm just boring, but there's nothing in my email they'd find worth reading anyway. I never understood what the big deal is with privacy.
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