Qatar Airways is said to have served a subpoena on Google in an attempt to obtain account information that might identify the identities of anonymous web accounts critical of the Doha-based airline.
A case involving a prominent online chat board for pilots and other aviation enthusiasts led to the subpoena.
Last June, Qatar Airways filed a lawsuit against two anonymous accounts on the Professional Pilots Rumour Network (PPRuNE) website for posting exclusive information.
According to the lawsuit, the two anonymous accounts exposed secret information about the airline, including its recruitment and re-joining activities.
Non-governmental organizations have long studied and criticized Qatar Airways’ human resources and disciplinary procedures.
Qatar’s hiring and firing policies differ significantly from those in place in the majority of the airline’s pilot workforce’s home nations.
The case, which was filed in a Los Angeles court, stated that Qatar Airways thought the anonymous posts were posted by current workers and that it was working to identify them.
The pilots “owed a responsibility of care, skill, diligence, and commitment to Qatar Airways,” according to lawyers for Qatar Airways.
“As a direct and proximate result of Defendant’s breach of their duty to Qatar Airways, Qatar Airways has been damaged,” the lawsuit continued.
Qatar Airways was legally allowed to subpoena Google to recover account information after filing a personal injury case in a US court, which could reveal a wealth of information including account names and IP addresses of where the account is viewed.
Subpoenas for account information are common, and Google will normally notify the account holder that they have received one and may reveal account information. Account-holders can then appeal the decision by submitting a motion in the court that is hearing the case.
One of the lawsuit’s pilots told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that he couldn’t afford to file a move because he was afraid Google would divulge his name.
“PPRuNE was the only place where people could express themselves without fear of being prosecuted.”
However, they now go there and look for people,” another pilot told Reuters.
Others described how the airline had been monitoring private Facebook and Whatsapp groups and retaliating against employees who expressed dissatisfaction with the company.
In October, Qatar Airways dismissed the action, alleging that the defendants had yet to be discovered.