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Google: Gmail Users Should Have No Expectation of Privacy

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.'"

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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.

  • itchyisvegeta
    That's like saying, "Google CEOs should have no expectations of Class Action Lawsuits."
    Reply
  • inerax
    Here comes anonymous..............
    Reply
  • inerax
    Here comes anonymous..............
    Reply
  • onichikun
    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.
    Reply
  • jonny_76
    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 ?
    Reply
  • stevejnb
    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???
    Reply
  • HEXiT
    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...
    Reply
  • ddpruitt
    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.
    Reply
  • SchizoFrog
    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?
    Reply
  • inerax
    Here comes anonymous..............
    Reply