I had created a Gmail account for office use by providing my credentials (first owner). After quitting job, still I am using this account for my use. My ex boss demanded me to handover said account to company immediately. He called me a hacker.

Does my former employer have any right to this Gmail account?


The Google TOS says, applicable to creation of accounts:

You may create your own Google Account, or your Google Account may be assigned to you by an administrator, such as your employer or educational institution. If you are using a Google Account assigned to you by an administrator, different or additional terms may apply and your administrator may be able to access or disable your account. To protect your Google Account, keep your password confidential. You are responsible for the activity that happens on or through your Google Account.

So the account wasn't created for you by an administrator, and it is your own Google account. The terms say that you are responsible for what happens with your account, thus if you were to turn over the password to someone else and they did illegal things, you would be responsible (at least with respect to your legal relationship to Google).

Google does have business email, which your employer apparently did not utilize. In order to have actual ownership of the account, the business would need to set up the account for you and claim initial "ownership". If you create an account for the convenience of a business, that convenience – but not the account – is a gift from you to the business.

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    I don’t think this is good advice. Regardless of the terms of the agreement between the employee and Google (and other services offered by Google), the employer may have the right to demand access to the account under the employment agreement, if the account was created at work for work purposes. Similarly, an employer would normally have the right to require an ex-employee to return or delete company data, even if it was stored on a computer that clearly belonged to the employee. – sjy May 14 '18 at 3:07
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    @sjy: I'm not sure if the "company data" analogy holds. If you use your personal car to come to work, that doesn't give the company a right to that car, even if you bought the car explicitly for that purpose. Therefore, use does not prove ownership. The Google TOS points out that there is such a thing as a company account, which implies that other accounts are not company accounts. If an employer refuses to pay for the ownership of a company account, they can't just claim personal Google accounts. – MSalters May 14 '18 at 8:34
  • @MSalters: The analogy doesn't work if the account is truly 'personal,' as opposed to 'created at work [ie. on work time, using work resources] for work purposes.' My point is that Google's terms are largely irrelevant, and what really matters is the employment agreement and the circumstances in which the account was created. Many small businesses are run out of regular free Google accounts, and the fact that Google would prefer them to pay for a company account does not mean that the account belongs to whichever staff member happened to create it. – sjy May 15 '18 at 10:45
  • @sjy if an employer encourages or requires employees to use their personal electronic devices for work, or if an employee does that without being encouraged or required by the employer, does that give the employer ownership of the device or a right to read the data on it? – phoog Mar 19 '19 at 17:46
  • @phoog That depends on the terms of the employment contract, and any relevant local labour laws. It would be unusual for the employer to take ownership of the employee's property under an employment contract, or to be able to inspect the employee's personal devices on demand, but it is normal for the employer to have some legal right to control business-related information in the employee's possession. This right can be enforced with civil remedies such as an injunction, damages, or an order to provide evidence of disposal. – sjy Mar 22 '19 at 12:55

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