| NEW YORK, July 18
NEW YORK, July 18 A federal judge in New York
has granted prosecutors access to a Gmail user's emails as part
of a criminal probe, in a decision that could fan the debate
over how aggressively the government may pursue data if doing so
may invade people's privacy.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein said on Friday he
had authorized a warrant to be served on Google Inc
for the emails of an unnamed individual who is the target of a
money laundering investigation.
Gorenstein said his decision ran counter to several other
federal judges' rulings in similar cases, including in
Washington, D.C., and Kansas, that sweeping warrants may give
the government improper access to too many emails, not just
But he said the law lets investigators review broad swaths
of documents to decide which are covered by warrants.
"Courts have long recognized the practical need for law
enforcement to exercise dominion over documents not within the
scope of the warrant in question to determine whether they fall
within the warrant," he said.
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The ruling came three months after U.S. Magistrate Judge
James Francis in New York said prosecutors can force Microsoft
Corp to hand over a customer's email stored in an
Ireland data center.
Microsoft has appealed, in what is seen as the first
challenge by a company to a search warrant seeking data stored
Companies including Verizon Communications Inc and
AT&T Inc have filed briefs in support of Microsoft, as has
the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocacy group. A hearing
is set for July 31 before U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska in
The government's ability to seize personal digital
information has grown more contentious since former National
Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked secret
documents in June 2013 to several media outlets outlining the
agency's massive data collection programs.
In June, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police
officers almost always need a warrant to search an arrested
suspect's cellphone, citing concerns about privacy rights. In
doing so, the court noted the enormous wealth of data contained
on mobile devices, including emails and photos.
Earlier this year, a magistrate judge in Washington, D.C.,
rejected a warrant seeking to review an Apple Inc email
account of a defense contractor as part of a kickback
Last year, a magistrate judge in Kansas tossed warrant
applications for emails and instant messages stored at Google,
Verizon, Yahoo! Inc, Microsoft unit Skype and GoDaddy
for five individuals suspected in a stolen computer equipment
In both decisions, the judges said the warrants were overly
On the other hand, several U.S. appeals courts have rejected
motions to suppress such searches, concluding that investigators
are permitted to search entire accounts for relevant emails,
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Richard Chang)