In a court filing, Google has in effect stated that its users should not have any expectation of privacy if they use its services, particularly Gmail. Putting pen to paper isn't sounding so bad after all, huh?
Google's admission comes on the heels of the Edward Snowden controversy over National Security Agency leaks and the closing of two email encryption services to evade government scrutiny, reports PC Mag.
Google is being sued in federal court for violations of the Federal Wiretap Act (as amended by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act) along with wiretap statutes in Florida, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, and the California Invasion of Privacy Act. In June, Google filed a motion to dismiss, where the controversial statements can be found.
Google's Automated Scanning of Emails
As restated in Google's motion to dismiss, the conduct in question is "Google's automated scanning of emails" in order to provide Gmail users with targeted ads. Plaintiffs frame Google's conduct as "an illegal interception of their electronic communications without their consent."
Google's practice of scanning Gmail for targeted advertising began in 2004, and has survived many challenges.
The company maintains its "automated scanning [is] completely automated and involve[s] no human review." Arguing that no separate devices are used other than Google's own systems, Google asserts that plaintiffs' wiretapping claims fail on their face because one of the specific prongs of the use of a defined device is not met.
Big Brother Is Watching
Consumer Watchdog, a public interest group, has stated: "Google has finally admitted they don't respect privacy.... People should take them at their word; if you care about your email correspondents' privacy, don't use Gmail."
It's unclear which way this motion will be decided, but Google does cite precedent that allows companies to use their own systems to analyze data to provide targeted ads to users.
However, considering the growing controversy over Internet privacy, it may be time for Congress to update laws so they accurately reflect the ever-changing technological landscape.
- The ECPA is So Bad Republicans, ACLU, Unify to Fix It (FindLaw's Technologist)
- Google Fights For Users' Privacy; Still Playing by 80s Rules (FindLaw's Technologist)
- State Secrecy Upheld in WikiLeaks ECPA Records Request Case (FindLaw's U.S. Fourth Circuit Blog)