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Google: Gmail Users Should Have No Expectation of Privacy

By - Source: RT | B 42 comments

Google comments cause controversy.

Consumer Watchdog has reportedly discovered a motion filed by Google's attorneys back in July related to ongoing litigation about how the company runs its Gmail service. In an attempt to dismiss a class action complaint filed against the company, Google stated that its Gmail users should assume that any electronic data that passes through Google's servers can be accessed and used for a number of applications such as selling ads to customers.

"Just as a sender of a letter to a business colleague cannot be surprised that the recipient's assistant opens the letter, people who use Web-based email today cannot be surprised if their emails are processed by the recipient's [email provider] in the course of delivery,” the motion reads. "Indeed, 'a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.'"

MORE: Why Online Banking Is Safer on a Mobile Phone

The Plaintiffs in the complaint allege that Google is illegally intercepting email each time one is scanned as it's delivered to and from a Gmail account. Google counters the claim by saying that although scanning isn't defined in the Terms of Service agreement, it’s a necessary procedure for the "product" to run correctly. Scanning is also done in Google's "ordinary course of business," meaning federal wiretap laws protect the company and similar Electronic Communication Service (ECS) providers from litigation.

"While plaintiffs go to great lengths to portray Google in a sinister light, the complaint actually confirms that the automated processes at issue are Google’s ordinary business practices implemented as part of providing the free Gmail service to the public. This is fatal to plaintiffs’ claims," the Google attorneys state.

Google provides examples of how services like Gmail couldn't function without scanning. For instance, a user wouldn't be able to sort their emails using automated filters because any such system would require scanning the contents of the emails. Users also wouldn't be able to search their own emails for particular key terms because this would require scanning content. In other words, scanning is a root function of any email service, and doesn't mean content is being intercepted and read like a stolen diary.

The problem Google faces now is that it has admitted that Gmail users should assume no right to privacy regarding their messages. This view arrives amidst an escalating scandal revolving around tech companies like Google and Microsoft, government surveillance, and consumer rights. While there has always been speculation that Big Brother is watching everyone both offline and online, former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden's disclosure of government documents and recorded phone calls opened the door to a whole new level of secret government surveillance.

"Google has finally admitted they don't respect privacy," stated John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project director. "People should take them at their word; if you care about your email correspondents' privacy don't use Gmail."

Simpson argues that handing Google an email is identical to giving the mailman an envelope to deliver. It's expected to be delivered to the recipient based on the email address, completely unopened and unread. Why would anyone expect their messages to be retrieved and read by Google?

Google is currently asking the court to reject the plaintiffs' claims because their interpretation of what they consider "illegal interception" would make it impossible for any email company to provide normal services. What's more, scanning has been a part of email services for nearly a decade.

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Top Comments
  • 14 Hide
    stevejnb , August 15, 2013 9:14 AM
    Here's what gets me... This forum is littered with people who are cheering the rise of Google and proclaiming that Microsoft is the virtual devil and doing gleeful jigs as it goes down, but they're trading the devil they know for the devil they don't. Do you people *really* think that ChromeOS and being wired through multiple Google services is somehow trading out big-bad Microsoft for a lesser evil? I mean, a lot of you are picking ChromeOS for some sort of a moral objection to Microsoft and their "abusive business practices" and whatnot and not because you actually like it better. Is THIS the company you think is your white knight saving you from corporate exploitation in computing? Really???
Other Comments
  • 4 Hide
    itchyisvegeta , August 15, 2013 9:05 AM
    That's like saying, "Google CEOs should have no expectations of Class Action Lawsuits."
  • -6 Hide
    inerax , August 15, 2013 9:06 AM
    Here comes anonymous..............
  • Display all 42 comments.
  • -6 Hide
    inerax , August 15, 2013 9:09 AM
    Here comes anonymous..............
  • 3 Hide
    onichikun , August 15, 2013 9:09 AM
    And people think MIME is a secure, authenticated protocol to begin with? Lol. Any server your email goes through can read it's contents and use it for whatever.
    Google provides their service through content scanning emails, and yes, they openly admit to delivering content to the NSA. The NSA is the least of our worrys when it comes to our email content leaking. If you want secure messaging, don't use email, or use a email service that ensures privacy.
  • -3 Hide
    jonny_76 , August 15, 2013 9:10 AM
    No-one should really be surprised especially since it is 'free' But it would have been nice if Google had voluntarily told everyone before we signed up for g-mail.
    Is there any corp. email service that does not scan our emails ?
    Separate issue, Isn't our govt, by law, allowed to scan all our emails ?
  • 14 Hide
    stevejnb , August 15, 2013 9:14 AM
    Here's what gets me... This forum is littered with people who are cheering the rise of Google and proclaiming that Microsoft is the virtual devil and doing gleeful jigs as it goes down, but they're trading the devil they know for the devil they don't. Do you people *really* think that ChromeOS and being wired through multiple Google services is somehow trading out big-bad Microsoft for a lesser evil? I mean, a lot of you are picking ChromeOS for some sort of a moral objection to Microsoft and their "abusive business practices" and whatnot and not because you actually like it better. Is THIS the company you think is your white knight saving you from corporate exploitation in computing? Really???
  • 1 Hide
    HEXiT , August 15, 2013 9:15 AM
    what a load of crap... the email header and meta data is all that needs to be scanned to deliver it to its destination, there is no good reason to scan the content as that has no bearing on where the email ends up.
    just another example of corporations taking liberties with our data...
  • -1 Hide
    ddpruitt , August 15, 2013 9:18 AM
    Well Duh

    And the post office analogy doesn't hold up either. If email where like mail only the US government could deliver it, the box would be one they setup, where they like, and how they like. It would also take a month to reach you but I digress. And just like regular mail you would get all the mail for a single household in a single mailbox all mixed together with no filtering. I don't mind google seeing the contents if it get's rid of the spam and properly categorizes everything, the price I pay for convenience. If I want secure I'll encrypt it myself.

    And let's face it, the government agents along with "investigators" have been known on numerous occasions to illegally read mail without a warrant and without letting it's citizens know.
  • 1 Hide
    SchizoFrog , August 15, 2013 9:34 AM
    The way to send a truly private email (unless 'hacked') is to write it as a doc and compress it with anything else you wish to send with say WINRAR and a password protect it. Then email the password separately, ideally to a different account through a different provider.

    The question has to be asked though, are your emails really that important?
  • -3 Hide
    inerax , August 15, 2013 9:38 AM
    Here comes anonymous..............
  • 1 Hide
    the1kingbob , August 15, 2013 9:38 AM
    I know right... No good reason to scan the internal information of an email... All those neat features like search work on hope and wishes. As for taking shots at gmail, please explain how any other email server does internal searches of email without actually reading the email.....

    It has been known for years that good reads your emails for ad revenue... Why are people just now talking about it? Do people believe facebook messages are private as well? Isn't that why facebook started running all emails through their servers so they could claim right-to-read before forwarding to 3rd party email servers?
  • -1 Hide
    inerax , August 15, 2013 9:39 AM
    So. whats up with the double posts? even triple in this case.... I only submitted my comment one time...... Broken?!
  • 0 Hide
    kujospam , August 15, 2013 9:39 AM
    I personally like being able to search what is inside my mail. Shrugs. With the 10k emails that I save, doing it by title would not work for me. Like search for Humblebundle, ok, I have about 20 emails, now serach for humblebundle battlefield 3. Now I get the right email I'm looking for. Microsoft and others companies have been doing this for at least a decade. The major difference is that, the program wouldn't then send it to some promotional event or company.
  • 3 Hide
    ethanolson , August 15, 2013 9:47 AM
    The internet was designed as a free information sharing system. In other words, anything you put out there is a free for all. This younger generation seems to have not been educated as to these things. Remember when the internet didn't even have web pages? Everything was in chat rooms and on gopher. Even email was just managed in open folders with no user restrictions. There was no privacy at all. The fact that we developed a façade of privacy is a miracle because the system can't inherently support it.
  • 1 Hide
    senkasaw , August 15, 2013 9:50 AM
    Any user of any non-encrypted email service should always behave as if there is no "expectation of privacy".
  • 3 Hide
    COLGeek , August 15, 2013 9:51 AM
    Anyone who sends/receives unencrypted email via ANY provider should consider it fair game. Why does this come as a shock?
  • 0 Hide
    brandonjclark , August 15, 2013 9:54 AM
    I just read their privacy policy and it specifically reads "with consent".
  • 0 Hide
    belardo , August 15, 2013 9:54 AM
    This really shouldn't be a shock. Anyone who uses ANY off-site web mail service cannot expect full privacy. We do this because its convenient, flexible and portable.

    In the "OLD DAYS" - you would use a email client like Eudora / Outlook / Thunderbird to get and read your email. That connection was between your computer and the email server from your ISP (this doesn't mean 100% privacy, but its far more so than WWW). But then again, the email server also has to talk to other email servers... :) 
  • 2 Hide
    mobrocket , August 15, 2013 9:57 AM
    @ethanolson

    I agree with you... most of the stuff on the internet was put on there by choice.
    This idea that privacy exist in everything you do online is not logical

    U worried about your emails being scanned or your facebook being read... trying something crazy, like talking to people in person
  • 0 Hide
    AmNotATroll , August 15, 2013 10:12 AM
    Wow, did the author of this article actually do any research? How about the people commenting, did you question anything in this article? Try this link for something less sensationalistic.

    http://www.theverge.com/2013/8/14/4621474/yes-gmail-users-have-an-expectation-of-privacy
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