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Goldman Sachs says Google is now blocking access to an email one of its contractors sent containing sensitive client data, according to Reuters.
On June 23, the contractor meant to email a financial report to a “gs.com” account and instead sent it to a similarly named gmail account. Three days later Goldman put in a call to Google, but the email service provider refused to delete the email without a court order. As of today Google is restricting access to the email, but it hasn’t yet been deleted.
Google’s decision to block the email is reminiscent of an event involving Microsoft. In March the company went looking through a blogger’s Hotmail account to find the source of an internal leak, says Gizmodo. One of Microsoft’s employees had been giving out information about Window’s 8 software that had yet to be released. The company justified the snoop by saying that its terms of service allow for this kind of action as necessary.
Both anecdotes remind us that email service providers have fairly unrestricted access to our information and exchanges.
“The larger problem is what is public domain and what is private. If you send an email, is that a private communication? We should treat email like private mail, but email is like a postcard. It’s not like regular mail,” says Jim Lewis, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
This incident sparks larger questions about how email should be regulated. If this Goldman Sachs contractor had sent this report in the mail to the wrong address, they wouldn’t be able to retrieve it so easily, let alone have it blocked.