Google has temporarily locked down an unspecified number of Afghan government email accounts, according to a person familiar with the matter, 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 on Friday, 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. During the takeover the Taliban obtained thousands of the Afghan government’s secret files and payroll lists, which could implicate Afghans who worked to counter the Taliban in the country. Commandeering government databases and emails could provide information about employees of the former administration, ex-ministers, government contractors, tribal allies and foreign partners.