Gmail users have no reasonable expectation of privacy, Google says in filing

“People who use Gmail and other free email systems have no reasonable expectation of privacy, according to papers filed in a U.S. district court by lawyers for Google,” Bill Chappell reports for NPR. “The filing was made in June, when Google moved to dismiss a case accusing it of breaking federal and state laws by scanning users’ emails to help target its advertising campaigns.”

Chappell reports, “In making its case, Google compared sending an email to other types of communications where privacy cannot be expected: ‘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 communications are processed by the recipient’s ECS provider in the course of delivery. Indeed, ‘a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.’ Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735, 743-44 (1979).'”

“The company’s attorneys said those same expectations would also hold for any non-Gmail users who send a message to a Gmail address. And it says that anyone sending an email is essentially giving their implied consent to automatic processing,” Chappell reports. “As Eyder and Scott reported for The Two-Way last week, the U.S. government also cited the Smith case as a precedent in its pursuit of telephone metadata records… As the Techspot website notes, “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 U.S. 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.”

Read more in the full article here.

42 Comments

      1. But what about .me or icloud.com? Apple “ferociously” defends our privacy, right? Or am I kidding myself, where I need to get a .com domain and run it through there. Then the only problem is I’m sending it to others who have these accounts with no expectation of privacy? What’s the answer?

  1. Privacy? Google? Those two things don’t go together! What on earth has happened to these companies that believe they own the right to view/access information any reasonable person would consider to be private. Whether a service is free or not, users should be told in BIG BOLD LETTERS before they sign up if all communication is treated as public. Of course, instead companies like Google and Faceplant take the underhanded approach. Shame.

    1. Exactly. This is why I won’t use Chrome. (Funny, but 3 times that mistyped to Chrime)

      Chrome is now the #1 browser in most of the world. Google tracks and records everything you do.

      Who are the ultimate morons buying Chromebooks?

  2. Obviously should be no expectation of privacy but their analogy is silly. A recipient’s assistant is a trusted employee. The proper analogy here is for the post office and every letter carrier along the way opening the letter and copying the contents before sending it on.

  3. What a stupid lawsuit! The entire premise of Gmail, from the very beginning, is that Google would freely give you lots of space and a great interface, but you were giving them consent to scan your emails and display targeted advertising.

    1. The problem is that only the gmail user agreed to those terms, not the people who send to gmail users.

      Google should only be allowed to scan and process email from gmail users to gmail users since in that case both parties have agreed to the terms.

  4. Important Warning–The evidence rules in the federal courts and most states provide that the attorney-client privilege, doctor-patient privilege, spousal-communication privilege, etc. ONLY apply to communications and conversations that the parties reasonably regard as private. So, if you consult with your lawyer, priest, or wife by Gmail, not only is the email admissible, but the recipient can be required to testify about the communication. Beware!

    1. This has the potential to be huge. With Gmail being so ubiquitous, it is becoming increasingly difficult to kick it out of the communications loop. This especially since the common lore is that a g-mail address is to be used for professional communication.

      With Google now paving the way, it won’t take long before enough legal precedents solidify the notion that G-mail communication does NOT provide reasonable expectation of privacy, therefore overriding any and all other legal protections currently available to certain groups of people (as ITxUser mentioned above).

      If you really care about the true privacy of your communication, you will sanitize it all against Google.

      1. Calm down everyone. This is only Google’s filing asserting a position favorable to Google, not any ruling by a court stating this is the law.

        The Supreme Court said in a 2012 opinion that the exact decision Google is citing did not apply in today’s new technological world.

        The fact is that Google acts not as your overseer (obviously not Google’s opinion of itself), but as a post office.

        I think The court will reject Google’s assertion, both as being contrary to the law but also being against public policy.

  5. Google have stated a truth.
    Hands up if you’ve ever read the Gmail privacy policy, hmmm?
    Most people are happy using the “free” email service ignorant of what happens to their emails once they are in Google’s hands.

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