WikiLeaks lawyers scold Google over data disclosure

Information-freedom group asks why it took almost two years for search giant to come clean

Tags: Google IncorporatedPrivacyTwitter IncorporationUSAWikiLeaks (www.wikileaks.org)
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WikiLeaks lawyers scold Google over data disclosure Privacy pariah: Google’s Schmidt is on record as saying, ‘If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.’ (Getty Images)
By  Stephen McBride Published  January 26, 2015

Lawyers acting on behalf of information-freedom group WikiLeaks have written to Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt to complain about the search giant's delay in telling WikiLeaks about private data, belonging to three of its staff members, being passed to the US Justice Department, The Guardian reported.

The data handover, which included emails, was demanded in March 2012, under a search warrant issued in secret by a federal judge. But Google informed WikiLeaks on Christmas Eve, at a traditionally slow point for media reporting.

The information portal hit back today with a letter from Michael Ratner of the New York-based Center For Constitutional Rights. The letter transcribed part of an April 2009 conversation, alleged to have taken place between Schmidt and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, in which Assange recalls how microblogging company Twitter had fought for the right to inform WikiLeaks prior to any forced disclosure of its information. Assange appealed to Schmidt for Google to do the same and Schmidt is said to have replied: "I can certainly pass on your request to our general counsel."

Apart from expressing its disquiet that it took Google so long to disclose the data handover, WikiLeaks now wants to know if Google fought at all for the right to inform WikiLeaks prior to the handover.

In the letter, Ratner also requests information about any pending requests for WikiLeaks' data from Google by US authorities.

The WikiLeaks staffers that were the subjects of the March 2012 warrant are Sarah Harrison, a British citizen; spokesperson, Kristinn Hrafnsson; and senior editor, Joseph Farrell. Harrisson, in an interview with the Guardian, expressed disgust at Google's disclosure.

"Knowing that the FBI read the words I wrote to console my mother over a death in the family makes me feel sick," she said.

Google's public reputation on privacy is closely tied to past comments by Schmidt himself. In a December 2009 interview with CNBC's Mario Bartiromo, he infamously said: "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

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