Search giant Google has revealed after almost three years that it gave emails and digital information belonging to WikiLeaks staffers to the US government.
WikiLeaks has written to Google’s chairman, Eric Schmidt, to denounce that the search giant kept quiet about the existence of the order until last month, despite receiving the documents in March 2012.
The letter was written by WikiLeaks’s lawyer Michael Ratner – also of the Centre for Constitutional Rights, and added that the three-year wait to notify them might have cost the three staffers the opportunity to “protect their interests including their rights to privacy, association and freedom from illegal searches”.
Warrants were issued over alleged 'conspiracy' and 'espionage' for WikiLeaks’s investigations editor Sarah Harrison, section editor Joseph Farrell and senior journalist Kristinn Hrafnsson.
According to the whistle-blowing website, emails and metadata were handed over to the US government, including almost all communication sent and received – and even deleted emails, as well as other records of online activities.
"Knowing the FBI read the words I wrote to console my mother over a death in the family makes me feel sick,” Harrison told the Guardian.
"Neither Google nor the US government are living up to their own laws or rhetoric in privacy or press protections."
Google told WikiLeaks about the warrant on Christmas Eve and claimed it had been unable to do so earlier due to a gag order imposed by the US government. Although it has been lifted, the search giant has not specified when it happened.
Google received almost 32,000 data requests from governments in the first half of 2014, a 15 per cent increase compared with the same period the year before, according to its own report.