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Dutch court orders Google to reveal Gmail user

Secret mails auto-forwarded

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Google Netherlands has agreed to hand over the IP addresses of a Gmail user in an alleged spy case.

The CEO of Dutch internet incubator company iMerge suspected that a former disgruntled employee, who also acted as a system administrator, had secretly created an auto-forward rule in one of the company's mail servers. Several mails, including business conversations and a romantic discourse which led to a divorce, were forwarded to a Gmail address.

Because Gmail doesn't reveal someone's IP address in outgoing mail headers, iMerge couldn't take legal action against the former employee.

Google initially declined to provide iMerge with requested IP addresses on the grounds that "disclosing the user's identity violated rulings on the balance between freedom of expression and a person's right to his reputation."

However, a Dutch court believed the offence was serious enough and forced Google to reveal all the log files it had on the account. Immediately after the ruling, Google provided the required data, including a list of IP addresses.

Last year, Google would not hand over the IP address of an anonymous blogger who slandered Shaarei Tikva councilmen. When a Israeli judge ruled that the blog's content raised suspicions of criminal conduct, Google rolled over.

In July, Google was told cough up the personal data of every person who has ever watched a Viacom video on the YouTube website as part of a billion-dollar court case. Digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) called the ruling a "set-back to privacy rights." ®

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