Google Docs used by alleged spammers obtained by FBI

The FBI last August issued Google a search warrant to obtain documents from the Google Docs accounts of alleged spammers. In a first for cloud computing, the FBI issued a search warrant due to a suspect's use of a cloud computing service.

Wired is reporting that Levi Beers and Chris de Diego were the suspects targeted in the August 21 search warrant. They are alleged to have run an email campaign tricking users into buying a diet supplement named Acai Pure under a company named Pulse Marketing. 

The search warrant allowed FBI agents to obtain the files directly from Google without having any contact with the suspects. Federal agents have no legal requirement to tell the alleged targets of the warrants unless they are charged. This is because they placed the documents online opposed to only keeping them on their own hard drives. In that case, the FBI would have to issue a search warrant directly to the alleged spammers and seize their computers. 

Google provided the documents 10 days after the FBI issued the warrant. Beer's account contained a spreadsheet named "Pulse_weekly_Report Q-3 2008" which revealed that in a single five hour block, Pulse Marketing had spammed 3,082,097 email addresses. "Yahoo_Hotmail_Gmail - IDs" was the name of another spreadsheet which contained the names of 8,000 Yahoo webmail accounts which were also sent emails under false details allegedly in violation of the CAN SPAM Act. 

The 1986 Stored Communications Act allows the government to access cloud data if there are "reasonable grounds" for the action.

Google spokesperson Brian Richardson said, "Currently, if it doesn't jeopardize the investigation ... and is allowed under the law, we work to notify the user before turning over any information requested". 

Beers said no such notice has been sent to him in the 8 months following the documents being handed over. "I have not received notification from Google or the government about this search warrant." 

So as cloud computing makes accessing documents anywhere easy, it also allows authorities ability to access the data too.

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