There has been much talk about the pending lawsuit against Google and privacy of those who use their service “Gmail”. I can make this post really short and to the point: Sending email to Gmail users means you expect Google’s servers will process it. Google actually scans your email anyway, but more than likely, you don’t mind. Why? Because they’re scanning it to find out if it is spam. The argument from consumer groups in their class action lawsuit is the fact that Google also scans what you send through their servers for keywords. Those keywords look for possible ad revenue and more relevant ads you’ll see pop up in your every day web searches and on the gmail.com page itself.
But, is this really a surprise to anyone? First, you’re getting the email address for free and as the old adage goes “nothing in life is free.” Google justifies the searches based on a 1979 Supreme Court ruling about third-party involvement. The Third-Party Doctrine basically says you lose legally enforceable privacy rights when you use their service. Here’s what they said in court papers:
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. Indeed, “a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.”
Google’s “oh, we thought you knew that” has actually come out as an admission that they do the scans. They feel that you shouldn’t expect something you are doing online to be private. It goes along the lines of using your common, everyday telephone. You’re voluntarily conveying numerical information to the phone company. Look, companies email get hacked all the time. There’s no reasonable expectation of privacy when you use your work email, right?
Not so fast, say the watchdog groups. They are comparing the email scans as nothing short of illegal wiretapping, hence the class action lawsuit. What about the rights of people that send an email TO a gmail address? What are their rights? Here’s what Google Says about that:
Non-Gmail users who send emails to Gmail recipients must expect that their emails will be subjected to Google’s normal processes as the [email] provider for their intended recipients.
Oh. That means I can’t plead ignorance. Neither can you now, according to Google, because you just read the above sentence. We’ll see how this all plays out when this case goes before a judge September 5th.
Ed Snowden, NSA, the IRS – all are in the psyche of today’s consciousness and we have to remember that NOTHING is private anymore. So – think twice if you have a problem with sending something over the internet… its just going to get worse.
Here’s my segment from WOFL FOX 35 in Orlando
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