Google Sued Over Gmail Content Scanning - InformationWeek
IoT
IoT
Mobile
News
11/19/2010
04:17 PM
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
Twitter
Google+
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Google Sued Over Gmail Content Scanning

The complaint objects to Google's automated e-mail scans and delivery of advertisements without compensating e-mail senders.

Attorneys representing Texas resident Keith Dunbar on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against Google alleging that Gmail violates the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986.

The lawsuit was filed in the Eastern District of Texas, a venue more frequently noted for patent infringement complaints. The issue in this particular case is the way that Gmail scans the content of e-mail messages to serve targeted ads.

The complaint objects to Gmail's use of information in e-mail messages sent to Gmail accounts by those who don't use Gmail.

"Google intercepts and uses the information from non-Gmail account holders without regard to the privacy or proprietary nature of the information," the complaint states. "As result of Google's actions intercepting non-Gmail account holders' e-mail, Google obtains a monetary benefit without the consent of the Class members and without compensation to them."

This is not a new objection and isn't ikely to trouble Google's legal department much. Eric Goldman, associate professor of law at Santa Clara University School of Law, characterizes the complaint as an "are-you-kidding-me? lawsuit" on his blog.

"[T]he topic was exhaustively debated when Gmail first publicly launched in 2004," said Goldman in an e-mail. "There were numerous calls on government agencies to investigate Google, and Cal. Sen. Figueroa proposed anti-Gmail legislation in the California legislature. Frankly, after all the furor died down a half-decade ago, I had assumed everyone had moved on long ago."

"We haven't received a formal complaint and can't comment on specifics," a Google spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement. "To be clear though, Gmail -- like most Web mail providers -- uses automatic scanning to fight against spam and viruses. We use similar technology to show advertisements that help keep our services free. This is how Gmail has always worked."

Google pre-emptively addressed the issues raised in the complaint in its Gmail privacy policy. The company acknowledges that while it has heard concerns that Gmail may compromise the privacy of those sending messages to Gmail users, such worries arise from a misunderstanding of how Gmail works.

"Using Gmail does not violate the privacy of senders since no one other than the recipient is allowed to read their e-mail messages, and no one but the recipient sees targeted ads and related information," the company states in its Gmail privacy policy.

Google argues that e-mail recipients have the right to view e-mail messages using the service of their choosing and that on the Internet senders are not required to consent to automated scanning, which every e-mail provider does, for security purposes if nothing else.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
To learn more about what organizations are doing to tackle attacks and threats we surveyed a group of 300 IT and infosec professionals to find out what their biggest IT security challenges are and what they're doing to defend against today's threats. Download the report to see what they're saying.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
2017 State of the Cloud Report
As the use of public cloud becomes a given, IT leaders must navigate the transition and advocate for management tools or architectures that allow them to realize the benefits they seek. Download this report to explore the issues and how to best leverage the cloud moving forward.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of November 6, 2016. We'll be talking with the InformationWeek.com editors and correspondents who brought you the top stories of the week to get the "story behind the story."
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Flash Poll