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Bank sues Google for identity of Gmail user

Um, we sent him 1,325 tax IDs

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

A US bank is suing Google for the identity of a Gmail user after a bank employee accidentally sent the user a file that included the names, addresses, tax IDs, and loan info for more than 1,300 of the bank's customers.

In mid-August, according to court documents filed in a California federal court, the Wyoming-based Rocky Mountain Bank was asked by a customer to send certain loan documents to a Gmail account belonging to a third party. A bank employee attempted to do so. But a day later, he realized he had sent the documents to the wrong address - along with a file containing confidential information for 1,325 other customers.

After a failed attempt to recall the email, the employee sent a second note to that wrong address, requesting that the confidential email be deleted before it was opened. There was no response, so the bank contacted Google to determine what could be done to ensure that the confidential info remained confidential. According to the court papers, Google would not provide information on the account unless it received a subpoena or "other appropriate legal process."

So the bank sued.

Google confirmed with The Reg that it will not comply unless it receives a court order or subpoena. "When Google receives legal process, such as court orders and subpoenas, where possible we promptly provide notice to users to allow them to object to those requests for information," a company spokesman said. "In this case, [Rocky Mountain Bank] must comply with proper court process, and the court has required it to resubmit its papers. Once we have a chance to review these papers, we will determine our response."

The bank's counsel has yet to respond to a request for comment.

Rocky Mountain Bank had asked to court to keep its suit under seal, hoping to avoid panic among its customers and a "surge of inquiry." But obviously, this wasn't successful.

Google, of course, is right to wait for a court order. And it's right to give the Gmail user involved the opportunity to oppose the order. But the tale is a reminder that in certain situations, the information giant will indeed be compelled to turn over private data.

In recent weeks, Google has also received court orders to reveal the identities of those behind stories published in an online newspapers based in the Turks and Caicos Islands and of a blogger who castigated a model on a blog entitled "Skanks in NYC." ®

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