Google says it has temporarily locked the email accounts of some former Afghan government officials to keep the Taliban from learning their identities and seeking them out for revenge.
“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,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement, according to the New York Post.
Reuters was the first to report on the development, writing that Google had locked “an unspecified number” of email accounts amid fears they would be used by the Taliban to seek revenge.
“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,” Reuters reported.
An employee of the former Afghan government told the outlet in late August that the Taliban had asked him to preserve data held on servers of the ministry for which he used to work.
“If I do so, then they will get access to the data and official communications of the previous ministry leadership,” the employee told Reuters.
The employee said he refused to comply with the Taliban’s orders and is now in hiding.
More from Reuters:
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 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.
Reuters determined that Microsoft email services also had been used by several agencies within the former Afghan government, but the company declined to comment regarding whether it was taking any steps to protect the data and keep it from the Taliban.
The Post reported that tech companies are responding to the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan differently. For example, YouTube, which is owned by Google, said it would “terminate” accounts believed to be operated by the Taliban. In contrast, Twitter said Taliban members could keep their accounts so long as they follow the rules.
“Meanwhile, The Associated Press reported Friday that Western Union — which halted service after the militants entered Kabul — will resume transfers, which may help Afghans to receive cash from relatives living abroad. Most of Afghanistan’s foreign reserves, however, are held abroad and frozen while Western nations consider how to engage with the Taliban, putting pressure on the local currency,” the Post wrote.
The situation in Afghanistan continues to be seen as a crisis for the Biden administration, which has boasted about helping to evacuate more than 100,000 people from the country ahead of its arbitrary August 31 withdrawal date. As The Daily Wire reported, the administration’s vetting process for Afghan evacuees has come under scrutiny following reports that those with terrorist ties have made it to the U.S.