Google ordered to disable email account after bank sues

By on September 29, 2009, 6:00 AM
Update (September 29th): It is expected that the lawsuit brought by Rocky Mountain Bank against Google will be 'vacated' soon after both companies reached an undisclosed agreement. As a result the Gmail account holder should regain access to his inbox as soon as Oct. 5th, after being locked down since last week in compliance with a judge's order.

Original story: A federal judge has ordered Google to deactivate the email account of a user who was mistakenly sent sensitive financial data. Last month, The Rocky Mountain Bank emailed names, addresses, tax identification/Social Security numbers and loan information of over 1,300 individuals to the wrong Gmail address.

The bank contacted the unintended recipient, instructing the person to delete the private information without opening it, and asked them to reply. When the receiver failed to respond, the bank panicked, and requested that Google reveal the user's identity. Doing so would be a direct violation of Google's privacy policy, so the search giant refused to comply without court order, and the bank quickly filed suit.

US District Court Judge James Ware has ordered Google to disable the account, and disclose the holder's identity and contact information. Some lawyers believe the move treads on the account holder's First Amendment rights to communicate online, as well as his or her privacy -- after all, the user hasn't done anything wrong.

I have not seen any mention of how active the email account is, so it may be totally unused -- which would explain why nobody replied to the bank. On the flip side, what if it is active, or even heavily relied upon for business purposes? There is no telling what ramifications may unfold.

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