In response to a lawsuit against it, the information giant acknowledged that no one using Gmail or emailing a Gmail account holder should expect the content of his or her correspondence to remain exclusive. The class-action suit complained that when Google read emails to display targeted ads, it was encroaching upon wiretap laws, on both a federal and state level.
Google’s glib reply is reported by Consumer Watchdog:
“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.”
It’s unlikely anyone opening an electronic mail account thought of it as signing up for an assistant, much less one that snooped through personal belongings without explicit permission.
Google also argues, in its motion to dismiss the suit, that its ability to scan emails and offer targeted ads allows its account services to remain free of charge, and that, “The processes related to Google’s automated scanning are completely automated and involve no human review.” That is, of course, until the National Security Agency get its hands on them.
“People should take them at their word,” suggests John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director. “If you care about your email correspondents’ privacy, don’t use Gmail.”