Judge Compounds Bank's Email Fail
It's obviously problematic for a judge to order an email user's account be shut down because someone else mistakenly sent a message to that account. It's also almost certainly unconstitutional for a court to suspend someone's means of communications without advance notice or an opportunity to argue against such a drastic step.
Google might yet be able to get the order revised or stayed. Whether the company will seek to do so isn't clear; as of this afternoon, any substantive papers filed by Google weren't available on the court's PACER system.
But the fact that the order was issued at all is enough to call into question the future of cloud computing.
True, we don't know much about this particular account holder. The court documents reveal only that Rocky Mountain Bank sent the address an email by mistake on Aug. 12, and then sent two follow-up emails asking the recipient to contact the bank and destroy the first message.
No one answered the messages, but we don't know if the recipient received them, deleted them unopened, or read and ignored them. At this point, all seem equally likely. But if the recipient had been inclined to cause mischief with the information, he or she certainly could have done so between Aug. 12 and now.
Meantime, this latest debacle is just another example of how quickly information in the cloud can be lost. Earlier this year, Flickr stunned many observers by deleting Shepherd Johnson's 1,200 photos after he allegedly violated the site's terms of service by posting comments and pictures on the White House's Flickr page.
Also, the Web site Progress Illinois reported earlier this year that it temporarily lost access to its YouTube account, which hosted at least 25 original clips, in response to a takedown request by Fox.
Many Web companies, including ad companies, have high expectations for the cloud. If people can access their documents, photos and other material online, marketers have a huge opportunity to reach consumers when they're engaged in activities other than watching TV or reading the news.
But that might not be realistic if online data continually disappears.