Google's legal counsel says Gmail users should have no legitimate expectation of privacy

By on August 14, 2013, 9:45 AM
google, gmail, privacy, litigation, kim dotcom, lavabit, silent circle

A motion filed by Google’s attorneys dated July 13, 2013 notes that Gmail users should have no legitimate expectation of privacy. The filing, related to ongoing litigation about how the search giant operates the popular e-mail service, was unearthed by California-based consumer advocacy group Consumer Watchdog.

The motion notes that just as a sender of a letter to a business colleague cannot be surprised that the recipient’s assistant opens the letter, people that use web-based e-mail today cannot be surprised if their messages are processed by the recipient’s e-mail provider.

Google claims the plaintiffs in the case are trying to criminalize an ordinary business practice, referring of course to the process of scanning incoming messages for the purpose of selling targeted advertising. The search giant contends that federal wiretap laws afford third-party e-mail providers immunity from litigation if the practices are performed within the ordinary scope of business.

In a statement on the matter, Consumer Watchdog’s privacy project director John M. Simpson said Google has finally admitted they don’t respect privacy. He said people should take them at their word and if you care about your e-mail correspondents’ privacy then don’t use Gmail.

The motion was uncovered less than a week after secure e-mail services Lavabit and Silent Circle closed down shop due to intense pressure from US authorities. In their absence, Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom vowed to release a secure e-mail service that would run on a non-US-based network.




User Comments: 29

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SalaSSin said:

Anyone got any viable alternatives that they would personally recommend? For some reason, I don't trust the results Google search gives me...

1 person liked this | Guest said:

We all knew it but....reading it THAT explicit is still disturbing

WTF american people, aren't' you supposed to have the right to bear arms in case the government turned abusive? DO SOMETHING! ANYTHING!

1 person liked this | ddg4005 ddg4005 said:

And here some people thought of Google as some benevolent counterpart to the evil entity in Redmond known as Microsoft. None of these companies have users' interests at heart; they are businesses and deal in matters of profit and expediency only. We'll have to learn how to communicate telepathically if we want privacy and even then some of use will deeper into another's thoughts.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

Gmail was started by selling the idea that gmail is safe and secure. Looks like that was just a lie to get you to sign up.

Guest said:

You know how sometimes your e-mails are filtered into the spam folders? That's because your e-mail provider scanned the e-mail (every word!) and then filtered the e-mail based on it's contents.

I don't believe that there are any actual people sitting over at google reading your e-mails (except probably NSA employees), instead it's all automated to filter out spam as well as provide ads that relate to your interests so you can use a free e-mail service. I don't see the problem here.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

Remember the alleged Google slogan? 'Do No Evil.'

Apparently, Google has forgotten its roots.

Now, it would appear that Google's slogan is 'Do as Much Evil as We Possibly Can!'

As a previous commenter said, paraphrasing, 'Trust no one with nothing and you will never be disappointed.' (c) R.H.

Guest said:

Who dreaming privacy on this planet has less than IQ 80

3 people like this | MilwaukeeMike said:

Remember the alleged Google slogan? 'Do No Evil.'

Apparently, Google has forgotten its roots.

Now, it would appear that Google's slogan is 'Do as Much Evil as We Possibly Can!'

If you think having a computer scan your emails is evil, then you should be happy you lead such a privileged life.

I can almost guarantee that years ago when Google execs were talking about starting Gmail someone said "It'll be a great way to learn more about people so we can target ads better". It may even have been the main reason for starting Gmail in the first place. The more we use Google's services, the better they can target ads, and the more ads they can sell. This isn't some evil plot, this is their business model. Google is an advertising company.

According to Google's financials (http://investor.google.com/financial/tables.html) $43.5 out of their $46 billion in revenue in 2012 came from advertising.

Has anyone ever read the fine print on their Gmail bill to see if say anything about privacy? No one has, because we don't get a Gmail bill. You 'pay' for Gmail by allowing Google to learn about what you're interested in, just like you 'pay' for facebook by seeing annoying ads all over the place.

We need a few more old timers to remind the general population that there's no such thing as a free lunch. I think many people have forgotten that.

roxxas2 said:

Gmail was started by selling the idea that gmail is safe and secure. Looks like that was just a lie to get you to sign up.

Google is secure. It's secure against hackers and other people trying to gain access to your e-mail. Google and the government however are the ones that can see all your things. Which doesn't really matter to me, the people who read my e-mails aren't people, they're the government.

Guest said:

"WTF american people, aren't' you supposed to have the right to bear arms in case the government turned abusive? DO SOMETHING! ANYTHING!"

The goverment having absolutely all the info about every american soul doesn't sound like a possible abusive or totalitay future goverment for the american people for some, very, strange reason.

Rasta211 said:

Google has provided me with many useful free services.

As long as they disclose and don't try to "trick/deceive" me then they can scan away!

roxxas2 said:

"WTF american people, aren't' you supposed to have the right to bear arms in case the government turned abusive? DO SOMETHING! ANYTHING!"

The goverment having absolutely all the info about every american soul doesn't sound like a possible abusive or totalitay future goverment for the american people for some, very, strange reason.

What's the government gonna do with my information? Tell the police I like to browse cat videos for hours?

Guest said:

All emails are scanned from any mail provider, how do you supposed a spam is directed to your spam folder... ******.

Tygerstrike said:

Its chicken little all over again. Oh the gmail is scanning!! Really ppl how do you expect privacy?? The only thing private is whats in your head. They can even see through closed curtains if they wanted to. There is no more an expectation of privacy on emails anymore then there is a expectation of privacy when your walking through walmart talking on your phone. Privacy has kinda turned into a word that hold no true meaning in todays society. Somehow, Somewhere, Someway, Someone can look at your entire life. ALL your personal information is given to you by govt agencies. Your SS#, Your DL#, hell ever bit of info you call private tends to be monitored in someway. So the fact that Google is scanning my emails as part of a way to ensure better services and continue to offer a free email. Sure go ahead. I personally have zip to hide. So they scanned my email to my mom!! OMFG!!! Now they know that I loves my moms!!!

Lets face it..this is just another "buzz" topic that will be quickly discarded the moment something new pops up. And besides, I think it would be common sense to NOT put ANYTHING going out on the web that you dont want someone to find.

Guest said:

Now that's funny! Some people want to complain about google scanning their email, but will carry an electronic tracking device around and pay a bunch of money per month in order to do it. What do I mean? Your cell phone lets the government track your every movement, your personal contacts and find out much more about you than google pulls from your emails.

Guest said:

You're looking at one, Bubba, an old timer that is.

My implication in my reply was that Google stated that its alleged corporate intent was

'To Do NO Evil.'

I said nothing about scanning of e-mails specifically.

The implication was that Google, by its nature, in all of its services and transactions was following the (Corporate) philosophy of 'Do NO Evil.'

Scanning e-mails and making the content of e-mails available to others, is, in my book, EVIL.

And yes, I am a certified old timer.

I have been involved, directly, in the alleged IT field for OVER 40 years.

howzz1854 said:

Personally I'll have to side with google on this one. you're getting a free email account from them with loaded features that constantly gets updated. you can't naively expect the service to be high security. you want high security, use enterprise email accounts with firewalls that can burn the bacteria off the planet of the earth, or shell out some money yourself and pay for a service that cater towards security. I am sorry, as rare as it happens, consumer watchdog has got this one wrong.

Guest said:

Hmmm! I guess that doesn't apply to corporate accounts, or does it. Wonder what organizations are thinking, unless they are speaking of individual users only.

1 person liked this | Jamesbrah said:

Nobody should be concerned regarding their personal email.

As many have already stated - it isn't as if Google employee's are sitting there reading your emails. The emails are simply being scanned for certain keywords and trends so that they can focus their ads towards you. This is their entire business model.

The issue here is what happens to corporations who utilise GMAIL for their actual corporate email services. I personally haven't experienced a corporate version of GMAIL, but I suspect since it is a paid service, that the ads would not exist and the emails are segregated from the standard personal/free emails.

Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

Remember the alleged Google slogan? 'Do No Evil.'

Apparently, Google has forgotten its roots.

Now, it would appear that Google's slogan is 'Do as Much Evil as We Possibly Can!'

If you think having a computer scan your emails is evil, then you should be happy you lead such a privileged life.

I can almost guarantee that years ago when Google execs were talking about starting Gmail someone said "It'll be a great way to learn more about people so we can target ads better". It may even have been the main reason for starting Gmail in the first place. The more we use Google's services, the better they can target ads, and the more ads they can sell. This isn't some evil plot, this is their business model. Google is an advertising company.

According to Google's financials (http://investor.google.com/financial/tables.html) $43.5 out of their $46 billion in revenue in 2012 came from advertising.

Has anyone ever read the fine print on their Gmail bill to see if say anything about privacy? No one has, because we don't get a Gmail bill. You 'pay' for Gmail by allowing Google to learn about what you're interested in, just like you 'pay' for facebook by seeing annoying ads all over the place.

We need a few more old timers to remind the general population that there's no such thing as a free lunch. I think many people have forgotten that.

I agree. Apart from the fact that advertising is one of their tricks, they're also a tech company.

Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

I don't see what all the fuss is about. We always knew this was happening. It's not as though all our mail is read by other humans at Google to laugh at or report to the NSA. In order to keep this service free to us the advertiser must pay for it. Contrary to popular belief, Google is in the business of making money. They are not a charity organisation. If that's what you want, check out the Salvation Army but somehow I doubt they'll provide you free, unread, secure email.

1 person liked this | FLWrd said:

1. None of you know whether anyone at Google reads emails.

2. While they may not do so, the letter says "users should have no legitimate expectation of privacy". That is something else than "emails can be scanned for spam". It means: we can do whatever we like with our knowledge about your emails.

3. Where I live, the law accepts that employees of email providers could read emails, but forbids any disclosure with a penalty of up to 1.5 years imprisonment. That means I can have a legitimate expectation of privacy.

4. That Google offers the service for free is of no importance. That is their concern, and does not justify violation of privacy.

Emexrulsier said:

Who dreaming privacy on this planet has less than IQ 80

Almost 4 times the iq of the person who wrote the post ...

Baldanders said:

1. None of you know whether anyone at Google reads emails.

2. While they may not do so, the letter says "users should have no legitimate expectation of privacy". That is something else than "emails can be scanned for spam". It means: we can do whatever we like with our knowledge about your emails.

3. Where I live, the law accepts that employees of email providers could read emails, but forbids any disclosure with a penalty of up to 1.5 years imprisonment. That means I can have a legitimate expectation of privacy.

4. That Google offers the service for free is of no importance. That is their concern, and does not justify violation of privacy.

Your points are exactly right.

Privacy of the citizenry is a fundamental right in a free society and should never be breached by the government or a business. In fact, it is the government that should be non-secretive and open to public scrutiny -- not the other way around.

Only a couple of decades ago a large majority of U.S. citizens would have been outraged over the warrant-less, massive intrusions of privacy we are now subjected to. It's very sad to see so many posters stumbling all over themselves to justify the present day Orwellian attacks on privacy.

Guest said:

You're one of the few that gets it; that really understands it.

To the herd: Check out Hushmail. Its another of the many free email services where privacy is actually a concern.

Free, ads, spam, have nothing to do with reasonable expectation of privacy.

I have nothing to hide BUT nothing to share --except for those I choose.

So go on over to hushmail.com and then think before replying that google is so great.

Use google to look up In-Q-Tel:

In-Q-Tel sold 5,636 shares of Google, worth over $2.2 million, on Nov 15, 2005. The stocks were a result of Google's acquisition of Keyhole, the CIA funded ...

Guest said:

You're one of the few that gets it; that really understands it.

To the herd: Check out Hushmail. Its another of the many free email services where privacy is actually a concern.

Hushmail don't deserve recommendation. Did you forget the Hushmail debacle in 2007?

Guest said:

Hushmail is not bad, nor did they violate privacy. They simply comply with court orders which they clearly state when you are signing up. It is not hidden in 10 pages of EULA.

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