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The dangers of off-loading your privacy abroad

In his post “Don’t Look Now, But It’s Happening”, John Battelle fuses a point I’ve been concerned about for a while with the recent news that the FBI want to take a look at data contained on Google’s servers.

“As we move our data to the servers at,,, and, we are making an implicit bargain, one that the public at large is either entirely content with, or, more likely, one that most have not taken much to heart.

That bargain is this: we trust you to not do evil things with our information. We trust that you will keep it secure, free from unlawful government or private search and seizure, and under our control at all times.”

I’ve been mentioned before my concerns about the idea of running my mail requirements via Google. And call me paranoid, but I’m surprised at how many start-ups use GMail addresses to communicate around their company. Call me a cynic, but you can see where I’m going with that meme…

But my concerns have been moved to a whole new level with the news that the FBI (acting on orders from the Bush administration, it is alleged) is order Google via the US courts to give them access to certain data on their servers.

Well, that’s just it – via the US courts. Last time I checked, the US courts had no jurisdiction over me here in the UK. I’m not under the control of the RIAA or need to abide by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Or the Patriot Act, Sister Act or any other American acts you care to name.

And although it’s been known for people living in the UK to be extradited to the US [1][2] (illegally too), strictly speaking there aren’t any formal extradition treaty agreements between the two countries.

Sure, I’m subject to UK and EU law, but that’s within the jurisdiction of courts that belong to the society that I live in, vote in and contribute my taxes too.

With data sitting on US servers a non-American could suddenly find themselves in a position of having their data snooped by a foreign government and even be called to defend themselves in a foreign court of law.

Sure, you can dispel it nothing more than a conspiracy theory – but the point is your data could technically be in that dump delivered to the FBI – and for me that’s enough of a reason to be concerned.

Published in News Thoughts and Rants


  1. Photar Photar

    Don’t you have any good mail servers in the UK?

    You mean if I use a mail server in the US somene in the US might snoop my mail? NO WAY!

    Thats it. I need a swiss email account to go along with my swiss bank account.

    You’d think Bush was reading your emails personally.

  2. Very interesting article, ben.
    Your concern is well founded. What’s a gmailer to do (check my email address)?

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