Google Knows Something About the Danger of Email Archives

A lawsuit shows how the search giant avoids sharing sensitive information over email

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This morning The New York Times sifts through a "stack" of internal emails by Google employees made public by a lawsuit filed by Skyhook Wireless, a Boston-based technology company. The Times says the trove of emails reveals the "competitive tactics and decision-making" inside Google. But what really shines through is how Google, the biggest name in amassing vast archives of other people's personal information, is terrified of creating a discoverable digital footprint, namely employees' internal correspondence.

In the case in question, Google is being sued by Skyhook Wireless for interfering with its existing wireless contracts with handset makers such as Motorola. Skyhook was a pioneer in location-based services in mobile phones and it claims that Google forced Motorola and Samsung to sever ties with Skyhook because Google wanted to dominate the geolocation market and be able to collect location information itself.

In 2010, when Skyhook started striking deals with companies like Motorola and Samsung, Google employees decided it needed to learn more about the company. But executives were painstakingly careful about how that information was gathered. In one piece of correspondence made public this week, an employee promises to respond with details about Skyhook's business. This is how an executive at Google responds:

“PLEASE DO NOT! Thread-kill and talk to me off-line with any questions,” Patrick Brady, a partner manager at Google, wrote on June 25, 2010.

According to the Times, Google's paranoid behavior is a reaction to Microsoft's litigation problems in the '90s. "Big high-tech companies, in particular, are run and knit together with electronic communications, which can leave a minute-by-minute trail for lawyers and litigants to mine," writes the Times. "That kind of care [that Google has shown] never really surfaced in the vast troves of Microsoft e-mail."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.