Internet firms help Canadian courts ID authors of controversial email

by Sam Gustin
September 12, 2009

Think you can be anonymous online? Most people simply have no idea how easy it is for law enforcement officials — and other litigants, like someone suing you — to gain access to personal email, Google searches, and other online information users think is “theirs.”

The latest ominous evidence of this fact comes from our friends to the north. A Canadian court has ordered Google (GOOG) to turn over the identities of anonymous Gmail users who had accused York University faculty members of fraud and dishonesty. Like similar cases in the U.S., the York incident shows just how easy it is for courts to allow authorities to gain access to “our” personal information.

“People need to know that very little information that they give or make available to third parties [like Google] is unavailable to the government or private litigants,” says Eric Goldman, director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University School of Law. “I think most people are surprised at how relatively easy it is for the government and private litigants to obtain ‘their’ information.”

The complete article is here.

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