In many of our cases, there is frequently a need to obtain subpoena information from Google. Since Google owns so many assets on the web, like gmail, google+, blogspot, youtube, and analytics to name a few, then we find that many of our cases involve Google in some way or another.
Given the large volume of client requests that we field, we also find that there is tremendous confusion that exists amongst cyber attack victims in addition to their attorney’s. In this post, we hope to share some of what we see everyday in the hopes that it may.
Google Will Fight Your Request
If you read across the internet, you will see countless examples of where Google has denied a subpoena and thus the overriding consensus is that it is really difficult to have them respond. In actuality, this could not be further from the truth. What we will tell you though is that you have to do a lot of things exactly right to be successful in getting the information that you need.
In short, there is information that Google (and many other web sources) will provide in a properly done subpoena and there is information that they wont. So, for example, if you are looking for registration information about a gmail account and also IP addresses of who used the account, then that request likely will be honored as long as the legal basis behind the requests is valid.
Also, we see many attorneys have their subpoenas denied because of improper service and/or inappropriate language in the subpoena. After having seen tons of successful subpoena results, we can tell you it is not that difficult if done properly.
It Is Easy To Subpoena Google
We don’t really agree with this statement either. If you have done it multiple times, then absolutely, it is easy to issue a subpoena to google. However, talk to anybody (including us) that has learned how to do it properly and if honest, they will tell you it took multiple tries to get it right. Unfortunately, when this impacts a critical case where time is of the essence, then it presents a real problem.
Let’s Subpoena Email Content From Google
We see this tried many times with almost a 100% failure rate. While we are not attorneys, the attorneys tell us that there is privacy laws that make this very difficult to achieve. For example, we get repeated requests in divorce cases that if one spouse could just get the other spouses’ email contents, then they could easily accomplish their legal objectives. Regardless of how important this information is to you, you are unlikely to get it via subpoena.
What the attorneys have told us to tell clients is that unless their lawyer can get a signed, agreed consent from the account’s owner (often not easy in adverse situations), then the odds are very low that you will obtain the private communications of individuals via subpoena of electronic records.
You Can Never Catch Someone This Way
Often, when assisting a client’s attorney on a case, we hear that there is no real reason to issue these subpoenas because the person will have provided a fake name during registration. For example, if someone sets up a blogspot called jasonXYZisacrook.blogspot.com, clearly the bad guy is not going to provide their real name when they register. More than likely, they will signup under some alias like donaldduck1973.
While we agree with that statement, there are other more useful things that can be obtained. One, it is likely you can obtain the IP address used to create and operate the account with. Likewise, it is likely that you can obtain the registration email which can also very useful in ultimately IDing the culprit.
Let’s Subpoena Google And We Will Know Who The Bad Guy Is
While this is the ultimate objective, it frequently turns into a two or more step process. Like the example above, if the person registered as donaldduck1973, then clearly you still don’t know their ID. However, many of the other pieces of information available to you will likely lead to them being identified, as long as your legal team understands how to do it: since most attorneys rarely see these kind of cases and are not spun up on the technology, we often see legal teams get stopped even though they have exactly the information they need.
We Can Subpoena Google & The Bad Guy Will Never Know
Usually, this is not a true statement either. When you issue a subpoena to Google, they often send you a letter saying that it will be 20-25 days before they will provide the information. The reason is that Google is going to make its best attempt to notify their account holder to let them know that their information is being requested.
So, for example, with a youtube account where a registration email has been provided, then an email will be sent notifying the party. What this gives the party the ability to do is implement a legal defense tactic called a motion to quash (the subpoena). Without diving into the legal world dealt with by attorneys, a simplified version is that often this motion to quash can be overcome by your attorney if your original case and subpoena request have true merit.
You Have To File Your Case In California Or Hire A California Attorney
Since Google is located in California, many cases get slowed down by the struggle of how to get out of state subpoenas issued. We have heard clients quoted up to $20,000 by attorneys just for that process. If you are stuck in this area, then CIS can definitely help you.
If you or your attorney are struggling with any of these issues, then SEE OUR GOOGLE SERVICES HERE