Google threatens to pull Gmail from Germany

26 Jun 2007

If the German Government passes a new law banning the use of anonymous email accounts, Google has said that it will pull its email service from the country on the grounds of conflict of privacy practices.

Gmail, known as Google Mail in Germany due to the former being trademarked previously, allows users to anonymously sign up for email accounts. Google maintain that the proposed legislation goes against preserving the privacy of Gmail users.

Germany’s proposed laws are designed to complement anti-terrorist measures. Google claim that anonymity is essential to spam protection and preserving freedom of speech in the face of government restrictions.

If the law is passed it will be effective starting 2008 and all communications data concerning connection to internet, mobile phones and landlines will be saved for six months.

Anonymising proxy servers such as Citeseer would be rendered illegal under the new laws.

Google’s fight for the internet users right to anonymity is in contrast to its own data retention battle that it is currently waging with the Article 29 Working Party, an EU advisory body for personal data privacy.

The Article 29 Working Party demanded that Google reduce the time its saves users data from two years and succeeded in bringing it down to 18 months.

The group, headed by supervisor Peter Hustinx, is currently extending its research into Google’s search retention records and plans to release a EU wide paper on completion.

By Marie Boran