Send an email by accident? Sue Google to delete the evidence

Summary:If you've sent an email to the wrong person, consider Goldman Sachs' solution: try to force Google to unsend it.

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A fat-fingered mistake by a Goldman Sachs contractor has led to the investment banking firm facing off against Google in court to try to get an email containing confidential data deleted from a stranger's account.

The saga began last week, when a Goldman contractor began testing changes made within the firm's internal systems, according to Reuters. On the brink of filing a report containing "highly confidential brokerage account information" relating to a number of clients, the contractor accidentally sent the email to a "gmail.com" rather than "gs.com" account — to an unwitting user completely unrelated to Goldman.

After an unsuccessful attempt to contact the email account holder, the investment firm has requested that a US judge order Google to track down the account holder and delete the offending email from the stranger's inbox.

In a complaint filed last Friday in New York, Goldman said deleting the email would avert a "needless and massive" privacy breach — and no doubt, a wealth of embarrassment and apologies. The investment banking firm did not disclose how many clients would be affected if the email's data went public.

The bank added:

Emergency relief is necessary to avoid the risk of inflicting a needless and massive privacy violation upon Goldman Sachs' clients, and to avoid the risk of unnecessary reputational damage to Goldman Sachs. By contrast, Google faces little more than the minor inconvenience of intercepting a single email — an email that was indisputably sent in error.

According to the complaint, a member of Google's team said the email cannot be deleted without a court order, although the tech giant "appears willing to cooperate." This is unsurprising, as a court order would protect Google from a potential can of worms — with users either angry about potential snooping and breaches of privacy, or a plethora of email account holders requesting the same "unsend" actions. After all, most of us have probably sent an email or two we regretted later.

Topics: Google, Security

About

Charlie Osborne, a medical anthropologist who studied at the University of Kent, UK, is a journalist, freelance photographer and former teacher. She has spent years travelling and working across Europe and the Middle East as a teacher, and has been involved in the running of businesses ranging from media and events to B2B sales. Charli... Full Bio

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