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

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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TOPICS: Google, Security
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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

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12 comments
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  • excuse me

    I'll be right back, gonna go check my few gmail accounts...
    Jean-Pierre-
  • I checked mine ...

    ... only credit card details - no passwords.
    Ah well. I'll wait for the inevitable next one ....
    Heenan73
  • Let's see what happens

    Google has handled this properly, and G.S. is trying their best, but if the courts uphold this request for deletion, it's a travesty. There is no cause to remove that e-mail.
    vermonter
  • Too bad I didn't get the e-mail.

    I would have posted it all over the internet, and then laughed hysterically as GS tried to shut down the whole internet.
    thetwonkey
  • Postal delivery next

    Ok, so technology makes it easier to make mistakes like this, but this would be the equivalent of telling the postal delivery person to break into someones house and retrieve a piece of mail that they have received.

    Also, what happens if the person downloaded that information already to their computer - numerous programs make cached copies, or even if they then forwarded it with a "Hey, look what GS sent me?" - does GS expect Google to track all those down as well?
    Harlon Katz
  • First mistake

    Your first mistake is putting confidential data on a service that says they sell the information to 3rd parties.
    Buster Friendly
    • Not Entirely Accurate

      The issue hear was that Google was not in the loop. They accidentally included the GMAIL account. It was supposed to go to somewhere different but someone fat-fingered it.
      hforman@...
  • Yeah...

    ...because the person hasn't already seen and copied the data. Way to spend my tax money.
    offbeatbop
  • No Legal Basis to Delete Email

    I hope the court slaps it down. Besides, Goldman Sachs has no way of knowing if the email was already read/copied. Once it leaves their networks, Goldman Sachs has to assume a privacy breach. To do anything less would be negligence in their fiduciary and legal duties to their clients.
    technojoe
  • Hard Copy Mail?

    And if they'd put a hardcopy letter in the mail good luck suing the US Post Office to get it back. Why is email any different?
    RichardFH
  • Goldman Sachs should have disappeared from the face of the Earth in 2008

    after their greed and irresponsible behavior involving financial derivatives helped to bring down the world economy. The irony here is that the monies which it is using to sue Google are likely sourced (at least, in part) from U.S. Treasury loans that it has received "to boost the economy".
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Google

    Things wind up over at Google and in the public eye. We had one guy who was trying to help out an end user of the system by posting a list of highly private data on an internet-facing website thinking that NOBODY would see this. Wrong! various search sites, like Google have web crawlers that search the Internet indexing search data and Google found the document. The lawyers had to get busy to have the information removed. It involved all information on underage, sheltered girls giving their ages, location, etc.

    Now if anyone wants to look up something, checkout the online information on the class-action lawsuit that says that Google reads each and every email coming or going through GMAIL. It is not a case of "if" because Google says right there on their website that they do this. The question is: Did anyone who signed up for this lawsuit ever read the Terms of Service, the Privacy Policy, the FAQs...? You already know the answer to that one.

    So, although many people don't care for Goldman Sachs, this isn't really a Google issue. It was a mistake by an employee. Google will respond to lawyers and even a description of the damage that can be done. It is just very difficult. On the other hand, think of how many companies would put this type of information through GMAIL without it being some mistake not having read Google's documents stating that they read ALL documents that pass through their services (for advertising reasons) and reserve the right to do anything they want with the information.
    hforman@...