Oct. 21, 2009

Google’s Willingness to Release Private Customer Information Should Be Open to Public Scrutiny, Public Citizen Argues 

Google Made No Attempt to Fight Bank’s Request for Details About Gmail User’s Account

WASHINGTON, D.C. - How much of your personal information is Google willing to turn over to a third party without a fight? A California federal court should unseal a report that would give customers of the world’s largest Internet company an answer to that question, according to a motion Public Citizen filed Tuesday.

Google handed the report in question over to a judge in September to comply with a restraining order requested by Rocky Mountain Bank. The bank requested the order after it mistakenly sent the bank records for more than 1,000 customers to the wrong Gmail account.

In the order granted by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco, Google was told to deactivate the Gmail account and to provide contact information about the user of the Gmail account and whether he or she had read the e-mail. Google and the Gmail account holder also were enjoined from accessing or distributing the records emailed by the bank.

Google did not contest the order, deactivated the account and handed the judge a report responding to the order. The Gmail account user was not given a chance to appear before the court. Public Citizen is representing Media Post Communications, which reported extensively on this case. Media Post broke the news stories about the order requiring Google to deactivate the account and identify the user, as well as Google’s acquiescence. Media Post wants to review the sealed report - with the Gmail user’s identifying information redacted. 

“Beyond the bank’s sheer incompetence is the fact that Google wants to keep this report secret to avoid embarrassment at how easily it gave in to Rocky Mountain Bank’s violation of the Gmail user’s rights,” said Paul Alan Levy, the Public Citizen attorney who, along with Erica Craven-Green of San Francisco, is handling the case. “Google’s customers have a right to know the amount of information the company released.”

READ !!! the brief.