Google ordered to disclose data on Gmail user

A judge in the Netherlands has ordered Google to release Internet Protocol addresses for the owner of a Gmail account.

The e-mail address is believed to have been used for privacy violations and corporate espionage against a manager of a company called iMerge. The company filed suit against Google after the Internet firm refused to voluntarily hand over the data.

The court in Amsterdam ordered Google earlier this month to provide the targeted company with a list of all IP addresses that have been used to access the account over the past 30 days under penalty of a €1,000 (US$1,342) daily fine.

Google also had to hand over the IP address from which the account was created and the date on which this happened, as well as the name and secondary e-mail address of the applicant.

IMerge also had asked for a list of all addresses that mail had been sent to, but the court ordered that such data would unduly violate the privacy of third parties. Google has since complied with the order.

IMerge over the summer found that it's e-mail servers had been altered, allowing all e-mail messages addressed at the manager to be secretly forwarded to the Gmail address. The company said that the log files show frequent access to the account from both within iMerge as well as from the personal Internet connection of a disgruntled partner. The company argues that the log files provide sufficient evidence for a civil claim against the individual.

In addition to corporate espionage, the copied e-mails have harmed the affected manager in his personal life. He used his corporate e-mail to exchange messages with a person with whom he had an extramarital affair. Those messages have been forwarded to his spouse and are now part of a divorce procedure.

IMerge's counsel Mark Meijer complained to Webwereld, an IDG affiliate, that it is "incredibly easy" to create an anonymous e-mail account and harass other people. "Companies like Google will only cooperate when they risk legal claims, even if there is overwhelming evidence to indicate criminal wrongdoings as is the case here," Meijer said.

Allister Verney , a spokesperson for Google Netherlands countered that the firm never gives out user data without a court order. "In court cases we always try to limit the amount of that that is provided. But if a judge rules that we have to comply with a request, then we have no option but to give out the data," said Verney.

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