Data Centre


Google faces $10k-a-day fines if it defies court order to hand over folks' private overseas email

Judge rules in fight over seizure of foreign Gmail files

By Shaun Nichols in San Francisco


Google and the American government are quarreling over just how much money the Chocolate Factory must pay in daily fines if it loses its war against a search warrant for email held overseas.

The Mountain View giant is refusing to comply with the warrant, issued in the US, requiring it to cough up Gmail messages held on a server outside the country. This week, a San Francisco district court ruled the Mountain View ads giant will be billed a tidy $10,000 per day if it fails to overturn the order and then continues to resist.

Earlier this year, Uncle Sam bagged a search warrant in California to demand copies of some Gmail inboxes stored on a Google server in a data center beyond America's borders. Arguing the data is stored outside US jurisdiction, Google said the US search warrant should not apply.

The government, meanwhile, countered that the messages can be accessed remotely from Google HQ in Mountain View, California, US, so, basically, you can bet your ass it's under US jurisdiction. In mid-August, the courts agreed with the government, ordering Google to hand over the data.

Since then, Google has refused to obey the order, and said it will not consider handing over the mailboxes until its appeal against the warrant is heard. Now, the tech giant and Uncle Sam are arguing over how much the Chocolate Factory should pay in contempt of court penalties if that appeal bid fails and no emails are disclosed.

Google suggested it should be penalized a sum of $10,000 per day. The government, meanwhile, argued that ten large wasn't enough to compel the moneybags tech titan to comply and that a tougher set of penalties should be hammered out.

US govt can't stop Microsoft taking its Irish email seizure fight to the Supreme Court


In a ruling [PDF] issued Thursday, District Judge Richard Seeborg agreed with Google that the ten grand figure is sufficient punishment for its contempt of court. The fines will start piling up starting from a week after the appeals courts rule on the warrant challenge, and only if Google loses and continues to defy the order.

Google must also retain all the messages requested by the government while the warrant is being appealed.

"It is true that at first blush $10,000 per day may seem like a small amount to a company of Google’s resources. It is not, however, a meaningless amount. After ten days of noncompliance, Google would owe $100,000. After a year of noncompliance, it would owe roughly $3.6 million," Seeborg reasoned.

"The cost to Google of refusing to comply with these warrants will quickly add up. Viewed in this broader context, the $10,000 per day sanction proposed by Google should prove sufficiently coercive; imposing a more severe sanction runs the risk of being more than the 'minimum necessary to secure compliance'."

Google's parent company, Alphabet, reported $26bn in revenues and $3.52bn in profit last quarter, and just led a $1bn funding round for Lyft, so it's not exactly hurting for cash to pay the contempt fines, should it need to. ®

This story was updated to clarify the contempt fines, if necessary, will begin accumulating seven days after Google exhausts its appeals options.

Sign up to our NewsletterGet IT in your inbox daily


More from The Register

What's holding you back from Google Cloud? Oh, OK... it was hoping you'd say 'lack of hardware security modules'

Like AWS and Azure, GCP now hosts secrets inside HSMs

Twitter loses FISA fight

Decoding the Google Titan, Titan, and Titan M – that last one is the Pixel 3's security chip

Chocolate Factory opens lid, just a little, on secure boot and crypto phone coprocessor

Google Project Zero zeroes in on Google project: Security hole spotted in gVisor sandbox fence

Horn flags up flaw that can be exploited to breakout out of software containers

Google Cloud boss promises 'security built into every layer of the system' at UK shindig

Google Cloud Next Hopes to lure new cloud-sniffers with location lockdown feature

Your 60-second guide to security stuff Google touted today at Next '18

Two-factor authentication keys, cloud defenses, G Suite protections, and more

VMware's GM for networking and security jumps to Google

Veteran Jeff Jennings to get the band back together with VMware founder Diane Greene

Ah, um, let's see. Yup... Fortnite CEO is still mad at Google for revealing security hole early

Updated Normal policy – or punishment for stepping outside ad giant's walled garden?

US Homeland Security installs AI cameras at the White House, Google tries to make translation less sexist

Roundup Plus: European AI researchers to create a new lab

Cache of the Titans: Let's take a closer look at Google's own two-factor security keys

Analysis If it's good enough for me...