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Your Honor, You’re Clueless. (Judge Orders Google to Shut Down Email Account)

Rocky Mountain Bank might as well be called Royal Sc***up Bank.  An employee emailed loan documentation to the wrong email address.  Bad, but not unseen mistake. However, he also mistakenly attached documents that should not have been sent to anyone in the first place:

The attachment contained confidential information on 1,325 individual and business customers that included their names, addresses, tax identification or Social Security numbers and loan information.

After unsuccessful attempts at contacting the recipient, the Bank asked Google to reveal the account holder’s identity, only to learn Google will not do so without a court order (as per Privacy rules).

On Wednesday U.S. District Court Judge James Ware in California issued an order that requires Google to reveal the user’s identity.  But he did not stop there: he also ordered Google to inactivate the Gmail account in question.  Let’s just say at this point nobody knows if the account is even active (the owner did not respond to bank emails).  It could be dormant, a black hole where all the mistakenly sent bank documents disappeared.

Or it could be a real live email account, one that the owner’s every day life, business depends on.  Losing one’s email account is a serious disruption.

“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?”

I wonder if the judge realized what he just did.  You see, I meet people day by day in good old-fashioned professions whose life does not depend on email access.  To them email is still a once-a-week affair to communicate with remote friends and relatives. Sadly, most physicians fall in this category.  Oh, and I knew a high-tech VP who had his email printed by his assistant…   Perhaps His Honor belongs in this group, too, and really had no clue about the harsh consequences of shutting down one’s email unknown?

By the way, what exactly is being protected by killing that email account?  If the account owner intended to use the information in any way, it could have been downloaded by now.

But most likely, it’s just an innocent and busy person with heavy email traffic (like yours truly), who sometimes does not get to open unsolicited email from unknown persons for days or weeks.

20th century justice in action – again.

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