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Google bars Afghan government accounts as Taliban seek emails

Alphabet's Google stopped short of confirming that Afghan government accounts were being locked down (The New Arab)

WASHINGTON (Reuters): Google has temporarily locked down an unspecified number of Afghan government email accounts, as fears grow over the digital paper trail left by former officials and their international partners.

In the weeks since the Taliban’s swift takeover of Afghanistan from a U.S.-backed government, reports have highlighted how biometric and Afghan payroll databases might be exploited by the new rulers to hunt their enemies.

In a statement, Alphabet’s Google stopped short of confirming 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.”

One employee of the former government has told Reuters 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. The employee said he did not comply and has since gone into hiding. Reuters is not identifying the man or his former ministry out of concern for his safety.

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Publicly available mail exchanger records show that some two dozen 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 the presidential protocol also used Google, according to the records, as did some local government bodies.

Commandeering government databases and emails could provide information about employees of the former administration, ex-ministers, government contractors, tribal allies and foreign partners.