A sign for a Chevron gasoline station is seen through trees in La Grange, Ky., Ed Reinke-AP
Are you cool with the government having access to your online information in the name of national security? Fine. Do you feel the same way about an oil company accessing that information to protect its interests?

Sorry, but a federal court already made that decision for you. Mother Jones reports that Chevron (CVX) was granted access to nine years of email metadata -- which includes names, time stamps and detailed location data and login info, but not content -- belonging to activists, lawyers and journalists who criticized the company for drilling in Ecuador and leaving toxic sludge and leaky pipelines in its wake.

Chevron alleges it's the victim of mass extortion and is using that stance to justify asking Google (GOOG), Yahoo (YHOO) and Microsoft (MSFT), which owns moneyNOW and Hotmail, for the data. Federal judge Lewis Kaplan granted the Microsoft subpoena last month and ruled that it didn't violate the First Amendment because Americans weren't among the people targeted. The problem is that they were.

Nate Cardozo, an attorney for The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) that represents 40 of the targeted users, says at least one targeted Hotmail user is American. Of the Yahoo and Gmail users, Cardozo says "many" are American.

Advocates for the plaintiffs say Chevron is subpoenaing email records only after losing a lawsuit related to its operations in Ecuador, where Chevron was ordered to pay $9 billion in damages in 2011 and to issue a public apology. After the company refused, a judge doubled the damages to nearly $19 billion. The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear Chevron's appeal.

The extortion case against Chevron's critics is set to go to trial on Oct. 15, after Kaplan refused to delay it. Cardozo says 101 email addresses are listed in the subpoenas, but EFF has found only two that are owned by actual defendants. While legal experts say that's routine, they also note that Chevron will have to prove the relevance of the addresses pulled during its "fishing expedition."

Karl Manheim, a professor at the Loyola School of Law in Los Angeles, told Mother Jones that Kaplan's use of the citizenship standard is "wrong" and offers those email users broad grounds for an appeal.

"The U.S. Constitution applies to all persons (even foreign nationals) within U.S. borders and to U.S. persons abroad," he says. "While the targets of the subpoenas are outside of U.S. jurisdiction, the subpoena itself is operative within the U.S. So the Constitution should apply." 

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