Google disclosure request
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A full guide to Google disclosure requests
If you need to obtain a Norwich Pharmacal Order, or an NPO from Google, or from a social media company in order to help you identify an anonymous internet user who posts harassment or defamation under a fake name or a fake account, you should read this full guide to Google disclosure requests and to NPO.
Before making a Google disclosure request, you should pay attention to the Google disclosure policy in your own country as Google disclosure policies are different for Google users, depending on the user’s country of residence.
For internet users from the UK and from across the EU, Google will provide user data and information, which may include, among other things, linked Google accounts, linked email addresses, logins, and logouts details, login locations, IP addresses from which login has taken place, internet service provider used to login to the Google account, mobile telephone phone number use to login to the Google account or which had been registered with the Google account and linked mobile telephone numbers.
Some, or all of the above-mentioned Google user information might not be available or might only be available in part. Due to data protection and privacy laws, Google is unable, by law, to provide most of the user’s information upon a simple request. For this reason, Google will require you to obtain a court order, or a Norwich Pharmacal Order (NPO) before a disclosure takes place.
- The information that you can realistically expect to receive from Google during a disclosure process of an NPO may include the following:
- Linked Google accounts to the account that you are after
- Linked email addresses that have been registered by the Google user for recovery purposes or for creating other Google accounts
- Logins and logouts to the various Google products, depending on the nature of your disclosure request and the terms of the disclosure order or the NPO
- Login locations of the Google use to their Google or YouTube accounts
- The Google user IP addresses from which login has taken place
- The internet service provider which facilitates internet access for the Google user
- The Google user’s mobile telephone number
- Any linked mobile telephone numbers
If a Google user who posted defamatory or harassing posts about you had used a mobile telephone number to access their Google account and if the mobile telephone number is a pay-as-you-go number, it might still be possible, through internet geo-locations, to locate the actual user.
There might be other information that we can find about the pay-as-you-go mobile telephone number or about the way the user had accessed their Google account, which would help us identify the individual behind the harassing posts. Think about the process of disclosure as a series of puzzle parts of different sizes that need to be added to gather to identify a Google user on the balance of probabilities.
In other words, we only need to prove that the Google user we have identified is more likely than not to be your harasser or abuser. Usually, there is no requirement to prove the Google user identity beyond reasonable doubt. 51% likelihood of identification is often sufficient to bring a successful case against the use in a civil court.
Yes. In many cases, it is possible to locate the user of a pay-as-you-go telephone number through the mobile phone service provider, to an actual shop, where the pay-as-you-go number was purchased or had been topped up. If needs be, we can obtain further disclosure from the stores, which will often have some relevant credit card information, CCTV, user registration or account information that will help us locate the user of the pay-as-you-go telephone number.
However, for most people who suffer online abuse or harassment, these additional steps will not be required before they can apply for a default judgment against persons unknown or for an injunction to stop the abuse or harassment. You only need to take reasonable steps to try and identity the harassing individual and often a single disclosure application against Google will be sufficient.
If Google provide the IP address of a fake Google account, which was created by a pay-as-you-go mobile number, you will usually still be able to get an injunction against persons unknown, based on the information Google has given you.
The court would only expect the victim of a wrongdoing to take reasonable steps to try and identify their online harasser. In most cases, if it is proven difficult to identify a Google user, because they had used a pay-as-you-go mobile telephone number to create a fake account, you will be able to apply for a default judgment and for an injunction against “persons unknown” and to serve the injunction on Google, or on any other website operators where you are being defamed or harassed. Importantly, you will also be able to serve the injunction on anyone you suspect of being involved in the posting of the harassment or the defamation and they will also be covered and bound by the injunction. This nearly always brings the harassment campaign to an abrupt end.
An injunction against persons unknown could be extremely useful for anyone who suffers from defamation or harassment online. If you had been harassed or defamed on a number of websites or social media platforms, and if your disclosure applications or other requests to website operators have revealed scores of unidentified internet users, perhaps because they used pay-as-you-go mobile telephone numbers, you will be able to rely on all the information from the various platforms to help substantiate the application for an injunction against persons unknown.
To do this, in the claim form, you will need to already include all the different websites or social media platforms from which you have obtained the user’s information, and which you want to be covered by the injunction.
If you want to apply for an injunction against persons unknown, for harassment or for defamation of your character, follow the following steps. The first step, before you can apply for an injunction against known or unknown persons, is to take reasonable steps to try and identify your online harassers.
Once you have taken those steps, you will be able to file a claim which, in the case of an unknown individual, is likely not to be defended. As the claim isn't defended, you will need to apply for a default judgment and for an injunction and an order to pay damages and legal costs against persons unknown. If you know the identity of the individual who has been harassing or defaming you, the process of applying for an injunction would depend on whether the individual decides to defend the claim.
If they don't defend the claim, you will be able to proceed, fairly quickly, to apply for a default judgment. If they do try to defend the claim but their defence is clearly weak, you will be able to apply for a summary judgment, which will follow with an injunction application.
Not really. In our experience, the court will want to see that you have taken all reasonable steps to try and identify the defaming or harassing individual.
This includes making an application for disclosure or an NPO if making such an application is practical. Disclosure requests from Google are always considered as practical steps so the court would expect you to at least try and identify your harasser through a disclosure order from Google.
After applying for disclosure from Google, you might be able to build up a picture that will be sufficient to help identify the harassing or defaming individual. You will need to either add their names to the claim, apply for an additional disclosure order against another third party company, (such as a mobile phone company) or file a claim for defamation or harassment against persons unknown.
Each option will have its own benefits and will involve different amounts of work and legal costs. After you file a claim with the court, there would be a number of variables that will determine the best way for you to move forward. After each step, you should evaluate the situation, the prospects of success and any associated costs before deciding on the next step.