Whistleblower website WikiLeaks on Monday criticized Google for allegedly handing over private emails and other information of three of its senior staff members to the US authorities, terming it as “an attack on journalism and journalists, especially those working on security issues”.
Google notified WikiLeaks staff members of the same on Dec. 24, 2014, almost three years after the search giant was served with federal search warrants to hand over contents of all emails – sent, received and draft – as well as their destination or origin, IP addresses and even the credit cards associated with three of WikiLeaks staffers’ accounts in March 2012.
Investigations editor Sarah Harrison, section editor Joseph Farrell and spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson were among the three targeted staff members.
Lawyers representing WikiLeaks, in a letter addressed to Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and General Counsel Kent Walker, wrote that they were “astonished and disturbed” by Google’s actions relating to search warrants and asked for a full accounting of the information the search engine giant gave the government.
“Had Ms. Harrison, Mr. Hrafnsson, or Mr. Farrell been aware of such proceedings they could have intervened and protected their interests including their rights to privacy, association and freedom from illegal searches,” the letter read.
“While it is too late for our clients to have the notice they should have had, they are still entitled to a list of Google’s disclosures to the government and an explanation why Google waited more than two and a half years to provide any notice.”
In response, a Google spokesperson said in a statement on Monday that the company has a policy of informing users about government requests “except in limited cases, like when we are gagged by a court order, which sadly happens quite frequently.”
“We’ve challenged many orders related to WikiLeaks which has led to disclosures to people who are affected. We’ve also pushed to unseal all the documents related to the investigation. We continue to argue for surveillance reform which would enable us to be more transparent,” the spokesperson added.