WikiLeaks criticized Google Inc on Monday after the search engine admitted that it turned over private emails and other data on three WikiLeaks employees to the US government.
The company said that the data was handed over to the US government in the spring of 2012, which means Google took more than two years to inform WikiLeaks about the government request.
It is learned that the FBI had issued a warrant in March 2012 seeking the contents of all emails - sent, received and draft, including their destination or origin IP addresses and even the credit cards associated with the accounts.
In a letter addressed to Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt and General Counsel Kent Walker, WikiLeaks representatives said they were surprised by Google's actions relating to search warrants it received from federal law enforcement officials.
"We are astonished and disturbed that Google waited over two and a half years to notify its subscribers that a search warrant was issued for their records," wrote WikiLeaks' New York-based lawyer Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights. "While it is too late for our clients to have the notice they should have had, they are still entitled to a list of Google's disclosures to the government and an explanation why Google waited more than two and a half years to provide any notice," he added.
The disclosure follows leaks by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden detailing controversial U.S. government surveillance practices and assurances from tech companies like Google that they would do their utmost to protect users' personal information.
Founded by Julian Assange, WikiLeaks came into public spotlight in 2010 when it published a trove of classified government information, including leaked U.S. diplomatic cables.
The warrant was revealed to WikiLeaks on Christmas Eve. Google, whose online services include the popular Web email service Gmail as well as the world's No.1 Internet search engine released all emails and IP addresses associated with WikiLeaks’ investigations editor, Sarah Harrison; the spokesperson for the organisation, Kristinn Hrafnsson; and senior editor Joseph Farrell.
On Monday, Google said in a statement that it has a policy of notifying users about government requests except in certain cases, like when they are gagged by a court order, which is happening quite frequently.
Google stated that it has pushed to unseal all the documents related to the investigation. The letter from WikiLeaks' lawyers asked Google to come out with details about whether it had initiated any challenge to the search warrants before complying and whether it initiated any legal challenge to notify users about the warrants.