US President Joe Biden delivers the keynote address during the National Association of Counties at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, DC, on February 14, 2023. (Photo by Mandel NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

DOJ seeks sanctions against Google over destruction of chat log
Google employees could save chat history for roughly 18 months.

The Department Of Justice (DOJ) claimed on Thursday that Google should be penalised for its “intentional and repetitive destruction” of staff conversation logs that the United States government is planning to use in its antitrust lawsuit against Google’s search division.

Google maintained a strategy of automatically removing some employee discussions after 24 hours for years, the DOJ claimed in a petition in the District of Columbia federal court, despite its assurances that it would retain internal messages important to the lawsuit.

The DOJ stated that the approach had hurt the US government’s case against the technology company.

“Google’s daily destruction of written records prejudiced the United States by depriving it of a rich source of candid discussions between Google’s executives, including likely trial witnesses,” the filing said.

“We strongly refute the DOJ’s claims,” Google (GOOGL) said in a statement. “Our teams have conscientiously worked for years to respond to inquiries and litigation. In fact, we have produced over 4 million documents in this case alone, and millions more to regulators around the world.

U.S. Supreme Court to hear Google case. 

The federal government’s demand for fines emphasises an unusual step by prosecutors and puts further strain on Google as it faces antitrust lawsuits on several fronts.

United States government claimed in its lawsuit that Google trained and encouraged employees to regular basis discuss sensitive topics over chat messages they knew would’ve been deleted immediately the following day.

Google employees could save chat history for roughly 18 months through a configuration in its chat application, but only when the configuration is manually activated, the US government claimed.

The lawsuit highlights several of the appended documents where Google employees urged continuing a conversation on the chat platform with the record disabled when they realised that it was about to fall into a problematic area.

The government’s move follows after Epic Games, the developer of the popular video game “Fortnite,” filed a similar sanctions complaint against Google in a different infringement lawsuit involving Google’s app store.

The judge hearing the case directed Google to submit additional chat conversations on February 15. The two parties squared off in an evidence session the previous month.

The federal presiding judge over that case accepted the chats may have consisted of vital evidence, but that Google “did not systematically preserve those chats,” as stated in a DOJ filing from Thursday.

The Epic preliminary hearing, which was mentioned in the filing, established Google destroyed details of at least nine people who each were thought to be possibility trial spectators.

“Google admitted that — for litigations spanning the past five years — it has never preserved all chats for relevant individuals by turning chat history on,” the DOJ filing said.

The lawsuit claimed that Google failed to reveal to prosecutors its practice of wiping history-off conversations after 24 hours, and it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that Google decided to keep the discussions.

The DOJ and Google have been at odds in the past on evidence. The agency requested that the court impose a penalty on Google for its “Communicate with Care” curriculum last year in the same case.

As reported by the agency, the initiative taught workers to copy lawyers on emails to use the attorney-client privilege for communications that were business-sensitive but did not require confidentiality or legal advice.

Judge Amit Mehta directed that each of the disputed emails be examined again, although he refused to impose penalties at the time.