Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, has received a letter from WikiLeaks, demanding to know why the search giant took three years to inform them of the handing over of employee data to the US government.
The letter details that on December 23 2014, Google sent notifications to WikiLeaks journalists Sarah Harrison, Kritinn Hrafnsson and Joseph Farrell informing them that US federal law officials were now in possession of all of their Google data. Pursuant to search and seizure warrants, Google handed over data including e-mail content, metadata and subscriber information to the US officials.
In the letter penned by WikiLeak’s lawyer, Michael Ratner of the Centre For Constitutional Rights, Schmidt is asked why Google took ‘two and a half years to notify its subscribers that a search warrant was issued for their records.’
Ratner asserts in the letter that WikiLeaks are ‘astonished and disturbed’ by Google’s failure to notify their journalists that warrants had been issued for their records.
According to the warrants issued, the investigation concerned espionage, conspiracy to commit espionage, the theft or conversion of property belonging to the US government, violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and conspiracy.
The letter also detailed a conversation between Schmidt and Julian Assange on April 19 2011, where Assange had informed Schmidt of previous orders ‘issued to Twitter seeking records regarding affiliates of WikiLeaks’.
The conversation detailed how Assange asked Schmidt that Google notify WikiLeaks if they received any subpoenas or other orders relating to WikiLeaks or its staff.
The letter states that ‘had Ms. Harrison, Mr. Hrafnsson, or Mr. Farrell been aware of such proceedings they could have intervened and protected their interests including their rights to privacy, association and freedom from illegal searches.’
The letter then, once again, questions ‘why Google waited more than two and a half years to provide any notice.’
Sarah Harrison, one of the named journalists in the letter, told the Guardian: ‘Knowing that the FBI read the words I wrote to console my mother over a death in the family makes me feel sick."
The Guardian then reports that she accused Google of helping the US government conceal "the invasion of privacy into a British journalist’s personal email address. Neither Google nor the US government are living up to their own laws or rhetoric in privacy or press protections".
Ratner concludes the letter to Schmidt by asking for cooperation in providing materials detailing Google’s disclosures to the US Government. Google has yet to respond, telling the Guardian that it does not talk about individual cases, but that they ‘follow the law like any other company’.
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