To avoid confidential digital data falling into the wrong hands, Google has temporarily locked down an unspecified number of Afghan government email accounts, according to a person familiar with the matter. This comes amidst the growing fear over the digital paper trail left by former officials and their international partners.
In the weeks since the Taliban‘s swift takeover of Afghanistan, reports have highlighted how biometric and Afghan payroll databases might be exploited by the new rulers to hunt their enemies.
Alphabet Inc‘s Google has confirmed in a report on Friday that Afghan government accounts were being locked down, saying that the company was monitoring the situation in Afghanistan and “taking temporary actions to secure relevant accounts.”
According to an employee of the former government, the Taliban are seeking to acquire former officials’ emails. Late last month the employee said that the Taliban had asked him to preserve the data held on the servers of the ministry he used to work for.
“If I do so, then they will get access to the data and official communications of the previous ministry leadership,” the employee said on account of anonymity.
The employee however did not comply and has since gone into hiding.
Getting hold of the government databases and emails could provide information about employees of the former administration, ex-ministers, government contractors, tribal allies and foreign partners.
Publicly available mail exchange records show that many Afghan government bodies used Google’s servers to handle official emails, including the ministries of finance, industry, higher education, and mines. Afghanistan’s office of presidential protocol also used Google, according to the records, as did some local government bodies.