Court Orders Google Gmail Account Deactivated – What Happened To Our 1st Ammendment Rights?

You may recall the case in which a Wyoming banking institution sent the records of some 1300 bank customers to the wrong Gmail address. [See original post here] The bank wanted Google to reveal the Gmail account user information but Google said not without a court order. So not only did the bank get a court order for the account information, but also to have the account deactivated.

Here are the facts on what happened:

In a highly unusual move, a federal judge has ordered Google to deactivate the email account of a user who was mistakenly sent confidential financial information by a bank.The order, issued Wednesday by U.S. District Court Judge James Ware in the northern district of California, also requires Google to disclose the Gmail account holder’s identity and contact information. The Gmail user hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing.

The ruling stems from a monumental error by the Wilson, Wyo.-based Rocky Mountain Bank. On Aug. 12, the bank mistakenly sent names, addresses, social security numbers and loan information of more than 1,300 customers to a Gmail address. When the bank realized the problem, it sent a message to that same address asking the recipient to contact the bank and destroy the file without opening it. No one responded, so the bank contacted Google to ask for information about the account holder.

Some lawyers say the Ware’s order is problematic because it affects the Gmail account holder’s First Amendment rights to communicate online, as well as his or her privacy rights.

“It’s outrageous that the bank asked for this, and it’s outrageous that the court granted it,” says John Morris, general counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology. “What right does the bank have and go suspend the email account of a completely innocent person?”

He adds: “At the end of the day, the bank obviously screwed up. But it should not be bringing a lawsuit against two completely innocent parties and disrupting one of the innocent party’s email contact to the world.”

I have to agree that an innocent person should not have to suffer because a bank employee messed up. I dont’ know about you but I would be pissed if my Gmail account had been deactivated through no fault of my own. I can understand that the bank may want to contact the account holder, but to cut off their email is a little hard to swallow.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.


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I have been writing for Lockergnome for eight years.