back to article Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Google told: If you could cough up a decade of your internal emails, that'd be great

The US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee has written to the big four tech giants – Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google – demanding comprehensive information on its financial structures and 10 years' worth of emails between top executives. The bi-partisan committee is harvesting the data as part of its investigation …

  1. Arctic fox
    Happy

    Re "....10 years' worth of emails between top executives."

    Popcorn check, beer in fridge check and comfy chair at the ready check. I am so looking forward to this.

    1. Blackjack

      Re: Re "....10 years' worth of emails between top executives."

      What if they argue they don't have e-mails from that long ago? Tech companies are not the military, they don't have rules about saving every information forever, even if ordered to destroy it.

      Just joking, of course they saved their own e-mails that long!

      1. Carpet Deal 'em Bronze badge
        Trollface

        Re: Re "....10 years' worth of emails between top executives."

        Well, they did until that unfortunate server crash the other day. Took all the backups with it, too.

      2. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

        Re: Re "....10 years' worth of emails between top executives."

        I suppose if they argue that they haven't, the investigation quite possibly could treat that as spoilation, i.e. destruction of evidence. Should those emails no longer exist, I would hope they would not treat the matter lightly.

        What worries me is that they argue they don't have those emails any more, and then the investigators just say "oh well, no harm done then, nothing to see here, move along everyone"

        1. veti Silver badge

          Re: Re "....10 years' worth of emails between top executives."

          Seriously, what law is there obliging them to keep every email for that long?

          I know if someone asked me to produce my business emails from ten years ago, I'd laugh in their face. I'm reasonably sure that information no longer exists, unless maybe in the NSA's database of course.

          1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

            Re: Re "....10 years' worth of emails between top executives."

            Well HMRC investigations in the UK can go back 20 years if they think there is any kind of fraud or money laundering, for a start. I imagine if you laughed in HMRC's face if they asked for your business emails from ten years ago, they might not take it too kindly.

        2. eldakka Silver badge

          Re: Re "....10 years' worth of emails between top executives."

          the investigation quite possibly could treat that as spoilation, i.e. destruction of evidence.

          This isn't a criminal - or civil - investigation. Therefore there is no evidence to spoil.

          This is a legislative inquiry. That is, the legislature is looking into current issues to help them determine future legislative requirements, what legislation they should be looking at passing.

          1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

            Re: Re "....10 years' worth of emails between top executives."

            Oh good point I didn't spot that.

      3. Jove Bronze badge

        Re: Re "....10 years' worth of emails between top executives."

        When it comes to email servers they could always take their queue from Hilary - no problem there then.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Re "....10 years' worth of emails between top executives."

          or Ivanka...

      4. NeilPost Bronze badge

        Re: Re "....10 years' worth of emails between top executives."

        EU GDPR guidelines are to keep stuff for as little a time as possible.... so if they did get any last EU-Safe Harbour’s V’s GDPR squabbling, there may be little to be had from Google’s EU operations.

        1. Jove Bronze badge

          Re: Re "....10 years' worth of emails between top executives."

          GDPR is not pertinent in cases of Company records - contract records must be preserved under UK law for example.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Re "....10 years' worth of emails between top executives."

      NO WAY! Who do they think they are to demand 10 years' worth of emails!? ;)

    3. NeilPost Bronze badge

      Re: Re "....10 years' worth of emails between top executives."

      A lot of this will be subject to EU GDPR, so impacts on the EU-US Privacy Shield agreement. I’d take a punt it will block a mass dump of GDPR covered mail to be trawled by US Fed’s.

  2. Dinanziame
    Paris Hilton

    Ten years?

    Wanna bet that they all only store emails for one year, precisely to avoid getting caught red-handed?

    1. ExampleOne

      Re: Ten years?

      I was thinking seven years, but otherwise I assume they are nuked as soon as legally possible.

      1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Ten years?

        The problem with not being able to produce the emails is that in an antitrust court case the judge can assume himself or tell the jury to assume that the missing emails would corraberate the plaintiff's accusations, and render a judgment according to that assumption.

        (Which could still be better than having to produce actual incriminating emails, but it is still a significant penalty.)

        1. eldakka Silver badge

          Re: Ten years?

          The problem with not being able to produce the emails is that in an antitrust court case the judge can assume himself or tell the jury to assume that the missing emails would corraberate the plaintiff's accusations, and render a judgment according to that assumption.

          That only applies in cases where there has been deliberate destruction of evidence that one could reasonably assume would require to be kept.

          Deleting old emails once a legal action has been started? Yep, good case for spoliation.

          Deleting old emails in the normal course of business? Nope, perfectly fine.

          In addition, there is no judge, there is no court case. This is the legislature seeking to inform themselves of current and past business practices to guide their legislation actions - what laws they should be passing in the future. This is not the DoJ making requests about an anti-trust investigation.

          1. NeilPost Bronze badge

            Re: Ten years?

            Indeed EU GDPR and many businesses data retention policies now actively encourage you to remove data as quickly as possible. Much of this will be covered by EU GDPR reach, and also needs to satisfy EU-US Privacy Shield Agreement.

      2. Jove Bronze badge

        Re: Ten years?

        Looking at the record retention regulations in the USA it is only seven years max - except for Investment Banks/Financial Institutions/Advisers. So the committee could go to their take-over advisers and see if there is anything in their records.

      3. kmedcalf

        Re: Ten years?

        They probably have them forever stored in the write only storage at Iron Mountain.

    2. Kevin Johnston

      Re: Ten years?

      Well technically you can do that and it is sort of legal if you get away with it. The challenge is that if a mail turns up somewhere else which would be categorised as 'containing information which guided a financial decision' and you didn't have a copy of it in your list you need to get your waders on.

      Amazing how despite some very simple rules after the Enron issue (Oh how I enjoyed having to read and understand Sarbanes-Oxley and all it's offspring), people seem unable to decide what needs keeping and what doesn't. It's not rocket science

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Ten years?

        If it is so simple perhaps you could explain for the rest of us how long they would have been required to keep emails, and if the time limit is different for different subjects? If they can legally delete after 7 years, I think it is highly likely they will have. If it turns out someone has a copy of a 10 year old email I don't see why that would be a problem for them. It is only if they delete emails they were legally obligated to keep that they will get burned when such an email inevitably shows up.

      2. Jove Bronze badge

        Re: Ten years?

        "Amazing how despite some very simple rules after the Enron issue (Oh how I enjoyed having to read and understand Sarbanes-Oxley and all it's offspring), people seem unable to decide what needs keeping and what doesn't. It's not rocket science"

        That is not correct - there are dozens of regulations on the topic.

    3. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Ten years?

      I'd guess that all these companies are very conscious of anti-trust legislation and its role providing endless amounts of good eating for lawyers, legislators and anyone else who can get their snout suitably positioned over the trough so I'd very very surprised if anyone gets caught 'red handed'.

      These companies grew to be the behemoths that they are for the same reason as we allowed competing nations to get too powerful -- the majority of our corporate governance is both lazy and greedy, they'll always take the cheap option rather than make the investment needed to be independent. The provided the opportunity companies that are well placed and do put in the work. (So, no, there's absolutely no reason to tie yourself into a Microsoft / Google software ecosystem except that the companies make it easy for you .... the trap is baited.....)

    4. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
      Boffin

      @Dinanziame Re: Ten years?

      "Wanna bet that they all only store emails for one year, precisely to avoid getting caught red-handed?"

      Want to bet that they don't?

      The 10 year request wasn't by accident. IIRC that's the retention period that they are required to store those records.

      And because these companies store and track everything, you can bet that they will also keep their email around for that long too.

  3. Wellyboot Silver badge
    Happy

    Harvesters harvested.

    I do hope the email checking is done by the FBI with a little cross checking of phone records.

    It'd be a shame to miss anything that should involve a judge.

  4. Chris G Silver badge

    Small change

    A kitty with $100.000.000 from each for a bit of lobbying and this will all go away.

    At least that's what they'll be hoping.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Small change

      Alphabet (Google) spent $20 million on lobbying last year, enough to put it in the top 10 contributors.

      If they all have to pony up $100 million, that would be extortionate. (Yes, I know what you're thinking. But let's try to keep the orders of magnitude within the bounds of plausibility.)

  5. Karl Vegar

    Dead three edition

    For this kind of crap, dead the edition with toner saver on would be my preferred delivery method.

    All continuous text, no formatting, divider between mails or any such frippery. Maybe add in the headers to be certain there no nursing info.

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: Dead three edition

      "For this kind of crap, dead the edition with toner saver on would be my preferred delivery method.

      All continuous text, no formatting, divider between mails or any such frippery. Maybe add in the headers to be certain there no nursing info."

      Yes, because deliberately pissing off people who write the laws you have to obey is definitely a winning strategy.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No Microsoft

    Seems surprising at first glance, but I guess they're not as relevant to the Internet market.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No Microsoft

      My thoughts exactly! Perhaps MS philanthropy takes really good care of the House Judiciary committee at [re-]election time....

      1. ToFab

        Re: No Microsoft

        Microsoft already has been through and been convicted. You cannot be convicted twice for the same crime so the are off the hug this time around

  7. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Too little, too late?

  8. Rasslin ' in the mud
    Flame

    Another song and dance

    The requests will be stonewalled.

    Congress will huff and puff for as long as it takes for the inquiry to completely fade from the 24/7 news cycle. The 0.01% of the population who will pay attention will give up hope for any meaningful action before the story fades.

    Some Senators and Congress Critters will be ridiculously enriched for looking away and my tax dollars will be wasted even more.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Another song and dance

      "The 24/7 news cycle" will have forgotten about this story by the end of today. That's what it's for. If you think the action happens "before the story fades", then I'm not surprised you're disappointed.

      If you want to achieve - anything, you need to keep your attention focused on it after everyone else has moved on. That's how you achieve anything.

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    If it actually comes to pass it'll sort out those who went to the Sir Humphrey school of memo writing and those who didn't.

    1. Jove Bronze badge

      Indeed; Imagine them trying to pull this stunt with Intel.

  10. Lee D Silver badge

    Alright, it might take a while to get the full result and transmit it to them, but this is surely nothing worse than an SQL query where the from or to contain one of a given set of names, and the dates are within the bounds.

    If it wasn't for the fact that the network I'm on is only 6 years old, I could do that for you for any subset of my users, and I'm just an IT guy with an Exchange server. Gimme a day, but it wouldn't take even a tiny portion of that to get the results.

    Google might well have a lot more email per person, and a lot more people in the notice, and maybe they don't have a nice SQL interface (but they should!) but it shouldn't be unduly burdensome to them to return such results.

    The *bigger* problem is - who's going to sit and redact / check them all to make sure they are correct, complete and relevant? The lawyers presumably, at great expense.

    1. This is my handle
      Go

      Au contraire...

      ... there's a whole industry borne of these sort of shenanigans: e-Discovery to the rescue!

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "surely nothing worse than an SQL query"

      But SQL databases are so last millennium It'll need AI to sort it all out these days.

      1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

        Something like..

        SELECT subject, body FROM email Server

        WHERE timestamp <= DATEADD(year, -10, GetDate())

        AND (NOT aiMcAiFace(found, embarrassing) OR NOT aiMcAiFace(found, illegal) )

        Something like that?

        1. veti Silver badge

          Re: Something like..

          Apart from the "<=" operator, and throw in a few clauses about "To:" and "From:" fields, that looks about right.

    3. Jove Bronze badge

      Alright, it might take a while to get the full result and transmit it to them, but this is surely nothing worse than an SQL query where the from or to contain one of a given set of names, and the dates are within the bounds.

      Are n't you making assumptions about their internal systems? These are the grown-ups.

      The *bigger* problem is - who's going to sit and redact / check them all to make sure they are correct, complete and relevant? The lawyers presumably, at great expense.

      Interns, and Junior partners - this is not an uncommon exercise.

  11. Palpy

    But wait, this is... like... invading the privacy...

    ...of the executives of Facebook, Amazon, et al. It is assuming that everything said execs ever wrote can and therefore should be scrutinized and the information used in decisions which will, inevitably, impact their livelihoods and lives!

    Oh wait. That's what those corporations do to the rest of us already.

    Well, carry on, then. Pitchforks and hot tar at the ready, I hope.

    1. FuzzyTheBear
      Happy

      Re: But wait, this is... like... invading the privacy...

      Dont forget the feathers .. make em vulture feathers just to be cool and a nice publicity stunt ;)

  12. Mark 85 Silver badge
    Holmes

    Someone in Congress finally figured it out?

    "There is growing evidence that a handful of corporations have come to capture an outsized share of online commerce and communications," said Jerrold Nadler

    Definitely a no-shit moment.

  13. Baudwalk

    Reminds me of Yes, Minister...

    ...

    Sir Humphrey: "This file contains the complete set of papers, except for a number of secret documents, a few others which are part of still active files, some correspondence lost in the floods of 1967..."

    Jim Hacker: Was 1967 a particularly bad winter?

    Sir Humphrey: No, a marvelous winter. We lost no end of embarrassing files

    1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
      Pirate

      Re: Reminds me of Yes, Minister...

      There was that new York flooding a few years back so you never know... Fact is often stranger than fiction.

      Pirate icon for waterborne legal issues...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There was a sudden uptick in traffic to our servers....

    Now it appears that all the Tech Giants have ditched AI and Natural Language and have fallen back on Python:

    https://www.bleachbit.org/

    1. Jove Bronze badge

      Re: There was a sudden uptick in traffic to our servers....

      "https://www.bleachbit.org/"

      ... endorsed by you know who.

  15. GrapeBunch Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Nudge

    Wouldn't SOP be to make the e-mails sanitary, and have the real policy discussions at a cocktail party or by the water cooler? Or just a wink and a handshake? Politicians ought to be thoroughly conversant with such safety measures. Surely only the 99% put anything interesting and true in writing. This goes back to letters on paper. I remember paper. And watermarked paper. HPE - Autonomy case notwithstanding.

    1. Jove Bronze badge

      Re: Nudge

      Otherwise known as the Intel model.

  16. Tom Paine Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Wait...

    Amazon acquired AbeBooks?!?? FFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU...... /o\

    Anyone know of other, non-Amazon sellers of secondhand books?

    1. Jove Bronze badge

      Re: Wait...

      Oxfam.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019