back to article Google faces $10k-a-day fines if it defies court order to hand over folks' private overseas email

Google and the American government are quarreling over just how much money the Chocolate Factory must pay in daily fines if it loses its war against a search warrant for email held overseas. The Mountain View giant is refusing to comply with the warrant, issued in the US, requiring it to cough up Gmail messages held on a …

How nice of them

$10K is less than pocket change for MS.

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Re: How nice of them

True; but what does MS have to do with this particular story?

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Re: How nice of them

It's getting difficult to tell google and microsoft apart these days.

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Re: How nice of them @Credas

Possibly because MS are in a similar battle elsewhere, in that case the emails are on a server in Ireland. I really can't remember whose turn it is to appeal the last decision in that case but the next step is the supremes. Not Diana Ross and co, the other supremes.

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Trollface

Re: It's been awhile (thankfully!) ...

Chicken?

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Re: It's been awhile (thankfully!) ...

Vermin.

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Joke

Re: How nice of them

"It's getting difficult to tell google and microsoft apart these days."

Simple - Google's software has been built with spying in mind from the get-go, Microsoft are trying to retrofit it and that's why we keep getting these updates.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How nice of them

Its nothing but a show fight to reduce customer distrust and suspicion. Same es Microshaft.

Google is getting paid for its cooperation with the NSA.

Making it look like the banks and corporations that control the U.S. Government through the CFR is actually fighting that same government is only believable if you never read the University of Princeton's study on the true form of government in present day America (Plutocracy).

For one thing, the "country" United States of America doesn't exist anymore since the civil war.

We're dealing with the "United States corporation", which is a company registered in Delaware, the truth of which can be verified by anyone.

For another, look at the word "government":

GOVERN = control, regulate

MENT = mind

So, government = mind control...

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Pirate

Maybe the company should relocate

"The government, meanwhile, countered that the messages can be accessed remotely from Google HQ in Mountain View, California, USA"

If Google even floated a document about relocating to the Republic of Ireland and getting rid of all its American workers who did not want to relocate as well, the US Government would trip over itself getting rid of the warrants.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Maybe the company should relocate

"The government, meanwhile, countered that the messages can be accessed remotely from Google HQ in Mountain View, California, USA"

So presumably they have an interior security design to Microsoft where such messages apparently cannot be accessed remotely without an approver in the same region as the data?

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Re: Maybe the company should relocate

No Microsoft deliberately made their Eu subsidiaries separate to meet Eu law.

This is data held by Google for a US customer but it happens to be sitting on a foreign server.

Much as I hate to side with the DOJ in this case (unlike MSFT) they have a point.

If a US company eg. Enron / Bernie Madoff / Lehman Bros was allowed to work only with cloud data held remotely then they could tell any US agency with a US warrant or a freedom of information to get lost.

Any large US company would be totally above the law.

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Re: Maybe the company should relocate

Any large US company would be totally above the law.

Wot... You mean they aren't already?

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Re: Maybe the company should relocate

"Any large US company would be totally above the law."

Where "large" = "big enough to pay a few euros to a "service provider" outside the US.

If this were legal then in next to no time there would be an industry providing the service at prices that just about anyone could afford.

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Re: Maybe the company should relocate

If a US company eg. Enron / Bernie Madoff / Lehman Bros was allowed to work only with cloud data held remotely then they could tell any US agency with a US warrant or a freedom of information to get lost.

In which case the US government could use a Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement, which it has with Ireland BTW, to get access to the data in the foreign country - which is what it should have been doing all along. Just ignoring the law in other countries because it's data and you can isn't that clever an idea in the long term, particularly when it's unnecessary.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Maybe the company should relocate

"If this were legal then in next to no time there would be an industry providing the service at prices that just about anyone could afford."

Well it works nicely for many a multinationals financial departments

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Re: Maybe the company should relocate

Here in the UK of course if you for eg have a nice private email provider in Iceland and plod wants to see your emails they will simply make you give up the username and password or else. Else being jail time AND fines until you do.

No foreign file storage problems here. Now while we're holding your balls, cough.

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Re: Maybe the company should relocate

If a US company eg. Enron / Bernie Madoff / Lehman Bros was allowed to work only with cloud data held remotely then they could tell any US agency with a US warrant or a freedom of information to get lost. go through the established procedures to obtain a warrant in the jurisdiction in which the data is held.

FTFY

Why is is that this sort of thing keeps coming up in any thread in this general area?

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Re: Maybe the company should relocate

which it has with Ireland BTW, to get access to the data in the foreign country

Yeah, but that means getting warrants from a foreign court rather than the rubber-stamping FISA..

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Re: Maybe the company should relocate

Because there are lots of jurisdictions that would tell a US warrant to go fsck itself especially if it meant they became a global cloud data center - center.

Or I could have the data hop around different foreign sites every night, or I could split archived data across different countries to make it almost impossible to work out what warrants where needed

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Anonymous Coward

If the US Government wins it will annihilate the future of American owned email providers.

Go Go Gov USA!!!

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Holmes

The US 'own' the air space over its country.

That air in that space, moves from West to East, over the Atlantic, across Europe and on across to Russia and China. Therefore the US owns the air over Europe, Russia and China and can charge them for its use.

Makes as much sense as this BS. Whatever happened to countries sovereignty? When is the rest of the world going to tell the US to take a hike?

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Re: The US 'own' the air space over its country.

Whatever happened to countries sovereignty?

Two words: American Execptionalism.

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Pirate

"Google's parent company, Alphabet, reported $26bn in revenues and $3.52bn in profit last quarter, "

So after a year, the fine of $3.6million is around 1% of profit? Seems like a reasonable cost to get to tell the US Gubmint spooks to go fuck themselves.

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Or 0.1% if you can count. ;)

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Pirate

uh-oh. Yeah, back to school for me.

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Or 0.025% if you really can count, although traipsing out annual revenues and comparing them to quarterly profits like that is pretty much guaranteed to create confusion.

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JLV
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Headmaster

0.025% even ;-)

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Or zero since they can presumably write this off as a business expense against tax?

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Coat

0.1 vs 0.025

There comes a point late in the evening, especially when you are sleep deprived, when these two numbers (and all other numbers for that matter) effectively equal the same value. (It's around this time that most people start waffling on as if they're a few bananas short of a plantation.)

Or something... :)

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Re: 0.1 vs 0.025

they're a few bananas short of a plantation

Or, in my case, a few glasses short of a bottle. Something which I intend to start rectifying in a few hours..

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"So after a year, the fine of $3.6million is around 1% of profit? Seems like a reasonable cost to get to tell the US Gubmint spooks to go fuck themselves."

At least until the next election when they can buy themselves a couple of more politicians and have the whole mess disappear.

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Anonymous Coward

Why not make it a fair bet ...

... and make the US government pay Google $10K per day if it manages to shoot down the warrant on appeal? After all, if it goes against the gov, it would mean they were trying to pull a fast one - so there must be some punishment.

No, I am not holding my breath, thank you very much.

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Re: Why not make it a fair bet ...

There is such a thing as "making an honest mistake".

Note, I'm not saying that's what this case is - I know nothing about it. Just that the "trying to pull a fast one" conclusion does not follow.

In general, it's not a good idea to punish people for making honest mistakes. It's a way to get a workforce that is increasingly both demoralised and unscrupulous.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why not make it a fair bet ...

In general, it's not a good idea to punish people for making honest mistakes. It's a way to get a workforce that is increasingly both demoralised and unscrupulous.

I fully agree - honest mistakes by individuals have to be tolerated, especially by individuals in subordinate positions.

On the other hand, there should be no such thing as a no-fault mistake by a person or organization which wield an overwhelming coercive power. In an ideal world, all such mistakes should result in some sort of meaningful compensation to the weaker side. If the mistake was innocent, then the compensation should be sufficient. If on the other hand it was malicious, it should be accompanied by criminal penalties - with the penalties being higher than they would have been for somebody not in the position of authority.

Yes, I know I am dreaming.

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Re: Why not make it a fair bet ...

> Just that the "trying to pull a fast one" conclusion does not follow.

Yes, I think it does. It is implicitly impossible for a government agency to make an honest mistake.

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Re: Why not make it a fair bet ...

There is such a thing as "making an honest mistake".

Which is why, in proper sports like rugby, the punishments for fouls and 'professional' (ie committed deliberately) fouls is somewhat significant.

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In the lust for more power, logic is the first casualty. The government (and not just the US) tossed logic out the window several decades ago.

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Anonymous Coward

The real story...

This is about the DOJ not wanting for follow established law. Period.

Quote from previously published articles on the REG:

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"Microsoft tries to defend Irish servers from US g-men invasion, again

Appeal begins in Manhattan

By Richard Chirgwin 9 Dec 2014 at 05:32

Microsoft is continuing its battle against US demands that it hand over e-mail data stored in Ireland "

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"Nuh-uh, Google, you WILL hand over emails stored on foreign servers, says US judge

If you can access them in California, so can the Feds

By Shaun Nichols in San Francisco 20 Apr 2017 at 22:31

"The warrant, issued on June 30, 2016, ordered Google to hand over information on a number of specific Gmail accounts, including message content, attachments, metadata, and locational data."

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If the DOJ needs the emails in another country's through the means of US warrants, in a timely manner because it will jeopardize some massive harm to society, is just BS.

This issue goes back to at least 2014, if not earlier.

If the LEO had follow established international law and just got on the phone with LEO in Ireland prior to December, 2014, they would already have the emails in hand, tried and convict the individuals.

By the way if the Ireland data center is independent and since no formal requests have been issued in Ireland to stop destruction of files, why can't the local IT dept do a little house cleaning of the servers since most likely these email accounts have inactive for a number years and just delete them? Until they are issued a order from the Irish courts they are not bound by the US Courts to preserve evidence.

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Re: The real story...

It's probable - no, make that certain - that MS has an actual written policy that states exactly how long emails will be retained on a dormant account. Doing something like that outside of that policy may lay them open to whole new kinds of legal trouble.

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Accessible from Google HQ?

Isn't pretty much everything accessible from Google HQ? Everything their spiders index all over the world is fair game for the Feds, for a start. Then consider what Google could hack into if they were "properly" motivated, by say a $10 million/day fine rather than that puny $10K/day fine.

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Mail held overseas probably belongs to a non-US citizen

If the US government starts using US companies to extend its jurisdiction to other countries, then these US companies won't be so welcome in other countries anymore.

At least some countries will probably protect their sovereignty by prohibiting their citizens from using online services of US companies.

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JLV
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Trollface

Re: Mail held overseas probably belongs to a non-US citizen

a.k.a. killing the golden goose.

mind you, this particular goose is probably paying most of its taxes at special Republic of Ireland no-local-profits rates...

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Re: Mail held overseas probably belongs to a non-US citizen

"this particular goose is probably paying most of its taxes at special Republic of Ireland no-local-profits rates"

Its US employees are probably paying taxes at standard US rates, however, and spending their after-tax income moslty buying goods and services in the US.

And the company will be buying goods and services in the US for its own use. Why do you think Ireland can afford to set its corporation tax so low?

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Re: Mail held overseas probably belongs to a non-US citizen

> If the US government starts using US companies to extend its jurisdiction to other countries ...

The article says:

> the messages can be accessed remotely from Google HQ in Mountain View, California, USA, so, basically, you can bet your ass it's under US jurisdiction.

Which would imply that it doesn't have to be a US company, just that the content is accessible from somewhere in the US. Of course, if this is deemed to be legal, then the opposite could also be assumed to be true. That content on servers within the US, which could be accessed from elsewhere (say Google's Moscow office), would be legally accessible in those jurisdictions.

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Why is Google being fined for contempt of court when they have a pending appeal? Normally appeals put a stay on all decisions until the matter is finally settled?

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I think, as is often the case, the fines are not actually being paid pending the appeal. All Google needs to do is to demonstrate its ability to be able to pay the accumulated fines, or, failing that, put the money in escrow.

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The Law

Google are trapped by a corrupt court system in the US. They can not comply without breaking laws in other countries, they have rules about search warrants as well and it US court is telling Google to break those laws, which could land google staff in those locations with custodial sentences.

Basically the US has to extradite that data if they want it but apparantly that court in the US could simply not be bothered to deal with all that legal red tape, laws smaws, they want it now.

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Re: The Law

They can be guilty of contempt if they did it deliberately.

If I copy all my failed clinical trial data to Borat-istan and then claim I can't say how many patients died because that would be against Borat-istan data privacy laws - you can bet the FDA is going to take a dim view.

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Re: The Law

If I copy all my failed clinical trial data to Borat-istan and then claim I can't say how many patients died because that would be against Borat-istan data privacy laws - you can bet the FDA is going to take a dim view.

The case is a bit different, however. It is not Google's data we are talking about. It is someone else's data that the Irish branch of Google stores for a third party.

The sensible move would be to force the data owner to hand over his data. If the owner cannot be forced for whatever reasons, then the US court should request the Irish authorities to support in this case.

The US is trying to use the market power of their multinational companies as a lever to support their policies and circumvent proper procedure.

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Re: The Law

"Google are trapped by a corrupt court system in the US."

The word you are looking for here isn't "corrupt", it's "arrogant".

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