German Gmail Users, Achtung!
If you live in Germany and you are a Gmail user, it might be time to start considering backing up any important emails. A post over at Google Blogoscoped reported yesterday that Google is threatening to discontinue Gmail due to a recently passed German law.
The Blogoscoped article states:
â€According to this law, email services [in Germany] will be forced to maintain personally identifiable records attached to email accounts. What exactly this might mean for Google I donâ€™t know, but perhaps it would result in Gmail having to start requiring full addresses (and perhaps even having to verify an address by sending a snail mail to the user).â€
The news was originally reported by the German news source Heise Online. The Heise article, which is written completely in German, can be found here.
The law initiative, which oversees German telecommunications and online traffic, aims to fight terror by supervising internet traffic and keeping closer records of online data. Google is fighting to keep its German email accounts anonymous, with Heise quoting Googleâ€™s Peter Fleischer as saying, â€œMany users around the globe make use of this anonymity to defend themselves from spam, or government repression of free speech. â€¦ If the web community wonâ€™t trust us with handling their data with great care, weâ€™ll go down in no time.â€
Interestingly enough, all this German Gmail controversy comes just days after Harold von Bose, Data Protection Commissioner of the German federal state Saxony-Anhalt, a expressed public concerns that Germany is trending towards becoming â€œa Big Brother state.â€
While Google claims to be fighting to protect its German users, the German Google Watch Blog is criticizing Googleâ€™s threats. Jen Minor is quick to point out:
â€œIf Google will indeed stop their email service in the sense that no one will be able to access their mails anymore, they might as well close all local subsidiaries, and Mountain View can go ahead and forget this market â€“ because theyâ€™d destroy all user trust from one day to another.â€
Of course, the discontinuation of German GMail is only being used as a last resort, if the government maintains its current position. Also, I find myself wondering where it will go from here. If the German government succeeds in this type of online regulation, then similar laws could potentially be passed elsewhere. And if that is the case, will Google keep threatening to remove Gmail from other areas if and when similar laws are passed? Only time will tell whatâ€™s in store for Googleâ€™s German email market â€“ and what that means for Google itself.