Both Google and internet service provider Sonic.net have been ordered by the U.S. government to hand over information from the email accounts of Jacob Appelbaum, a WikiLeaks volunteer. The data, obtained through the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) provides the government with not only Applebaum's emails but the email addresses of everyone he's corresponded with over the last two years, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Applebaum, 28, has not been charged with any crimes but has been a vocal advocate of WikiLeaks, which allows users to anonymously publish documents. The website earned the attention of the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in 2010 after it released a number classified cables.
Applebaum's support for WikiLeaks stems largely from the fact that he works for the Tor Project Inc., a non-profit organization that provides ways for people to remain anonymous online, the Journal reports. WikiLeaks has often touted Tor's products for its volunteers.
Despite the order from the government, Sonic.net did not give up Applebaum's emails without a fight, eventually investing a lot of time and energy into the ultimately losing effort. The case represents a significant testing ground for the reach of the ECPA, which many feel violates the fourth amendment.
The order also marks the growing effort by the U.S. to bring charges against WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assanage and those, like Applebaum, who support him. However, according to CNET it is unclear what charges could be filed against Assange, but some have speculated that he could be indicted under the Espionage act.
The ruling also comes months after a federal magistrate judge upheld the Justice Department's move to obtain information relating to the case from Twitter accounts including subscriber account information.