Google Locks Accounts of Former Afghan Officials to Keep Out of Hands of Taliban

Taliban members set checkpoints around Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Google locked the email accounts of a number of former Afghanistan government leaders in order to prevent the Taliban from gaining their identities.

While it remains unclear exactly how many accounts were the subject of the temporary lock, a Google spokesperson explained in a comment obtained by the New York Post that measures are being taken to prevent the information from falling into the hands of the Taliban, as the situation is being closely monitored. “In consultation with experts, we are continuously assessing the situation in Afghanistan. We are taking temporary actions to secure relevant accounts, as information continues to come in.”

An anonymous former government official, who is now in hiding, informed Reuters that the Taliban had been pressuring him to safeguard the emails of former government leaders. The source explained that “if I do so, then they will get access to the data and official communications of the previous ministry leadership.”

According to Reuters, 24 government agencies operated through the Google email platform. The bodies that used the service included industry, higher education, mines, and ministries of finance. The emails would provide the Taliban with a treasure trove of information regarding these departments if the group were able to access the accounts. 

DomainTools security researcher Chad Anderson expressed just how troublesome the situation could become. “Just even having an employee list on a Google Sheet is a big problem,” he said. Anderson had also stated that access to the accounts would provide the Taliban “a real wealth of information.”

The security researcher would go on to add that the electronic information “may be far more valuable to a fledgling government than old helicopters.”

While Google publicly announced the company has taken action in order to stall the Taliban, it is unclear whether Microsoft has taken similar action, as it has been brought to light that some Afghan officials had used the company’s email services for official government business. Microsoft has declined to comment to both Reuters and the New York Post. 

The consequences of the Taliban acquiring sensitive personal information could be dire, as former government officials have already faced imminent danger. Recently, an anonymous former Afghan judge conveyed how she had been hunted down by former prisoners she had sentenced after they had been released by the Taliban. “Four or five Taliban members came and asked people in my house: ‘Where is this woman judge?’ These were people who I had put in jail.” The judge has since escaped to Europe.


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