That’s a bit of a salacious headline – but it cuts to the chase.
Google has been responding to a class action lawsuit, filed in May, asserting that they “unlawfully opens up, reads, and acquires the content of people’s private email messages” – and that such action would violate at least California’s privacy laws not to mention Federal wiretapping statutes.
Sure, the company scans messages sent to their users – this has been known for years. They have described how targeted advertising works based on key word scoring in Gmail messages. So – if someone gets a lot of messages about sports, then it might display an advertisement from a sporting goods outlet. Google states the system is automated an no humans are reading email messages.
The interesting part of the suit is that it is calling into question the privacy of the “sender” of messages to Gmail users, rather than the receiver.
I’ll play. First of all, I am not a lawyer, but I like to engage in conversations where I wish I was…
The first question seems to be, what are a sender’s rights to privacy – with regard to an email message sent to any recipient. It seems on the face of it, to me, that if a person sends a correspondence to someone, that copy should become that recipients property. (that is as much a question as it is a statement, again, as I am not a lawyer).
Resting on that assumption, if an email recipient utilizes Gmail (or whatever) for their email processing, AND if they are aware of the implication of doing so, (such as there existing keyword analysis of their messages for advertising purposes) then I’m not sure that Google is wrong here.
If any actual lawyers have an opinion regarding ownership of email messages relative to sender and recipient, please leave a comment.
What do you think – is Gmail doing enough here with regard to notice and choice presented to their users? Do senders of email to Gmail users have any privacy rights in this regard?