Google Handed Stacks of WikiLeaks Email Straight to the FBI

By Jamie Condliffe on at

WikiLeaks is demanding explanations, after it has come to light that Google gave the FBI emails and digital data belonging to three WikiLeaks staff members when warrants were served in March 2012.

It's taken almost three years for Google to admit to WikiLeaks that it handed over the data to US authorities. In a letter to Google's Eric Schmidt, WikiLeaks explains that it's "astonished and disturbed" that Google waited so long to notify it. It points out that the long delay could have hindered the organisation's chances to protect it rights to "privacy, association and freedom from illegal searches". The letter demands Google list all the content it supplied to FBI and enquires as to whether Google attempted to challenge the warrants.

Google apparently informed WikiLeaks of the incident on Christmas Eve of 2014. At that point, Schmidt & Co. only divulged that it had responded to an order from the US Department of Justice (DoJ) by handing over digital data, including all emails and IP addresses, relating to the WikiLeaks staff members Sarah Harrison, Kristinn Hrafnsson and Joseph Farrell. Google claimed that a gag order had prevented it from telling WikiLeaks about the incident, though it didn't say when it had been lifted.

For what it's worth, Google takes a reasonably responsible approach to US government's requests for data. So while WikiLeaks may be aghast at the fact that its data made it into the hands of the FBI, it's perhaps unfair to claim that Google acted without at least contemplating legitimacy of governmental demands.

Not that that's much comfort for Kristinn Hrafnsson, of WikiLeaks, who explained to the Guardian that "knowing that the FBI read the words I wrote to console my mother over a death in the family makes me feel sick". Google's response to the WikiLeak's letter is yet to materialise. [Guardian]

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