Today a federal judge has given the go-ahead for a class-action suit against Google who have allegedly, yet again, breached wiretapping laws.
The suit concerns the scanning of Gmail, Google’s email system, in order to build user profiles and the lack of transparency in the company’s terms of service – which fails to describe how it scans Gmail in order to deliver advertising.
Again we see privacy intrusions carried out supposedly in the name of profit.
U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh wrote:
“Accordingly, the statutory scheme suggests that Congress did not intend to allow electronic communication service providers unlimited leeway to engage in any interception that would benefit their business models, as Google contends. In fact, this statutory provision would be superfluous if the ordinary course of business exception were as broad as Google suggests.
“A reasonable Gmail user who read the Privacy Policies would not have necessarily understood that her emails were being intercepted to create user profiles or to provide targeted advertisements.
“Google has cited no case that stands for the proposition that users who send emails impliedly consent to interceptions and use of their communications by third parties other than the intended recipient of the email.
“Google further contends that because of the way that email operates, even non-Gmail users knew that their emails would be intercepted, and accordingly that non-Gmail users impliedly consented to the interception.
“Therefore, Google argues that in all communications, both parties – regardless of whether they are Gmail users – have consented to the reading of emails. The Court rejects Google’s contentions with respect to both explicit and implied consent. Rather, the Court finds that it cannot conclude that any party – Gmail users or non-Gmail users – has consented to Google’s reading of email for the purposes of creating user profiles or providing targeted advertising. Google points to its Terms of Service and Privacy Policies, to which all Gmail and Google Apps users agreed, to contend that these users explicitly consented to the interceptions at issue.
“The Court finds, however, that those policies did not explicitly notify Plaintiffs that Google would intercept users’ emails for the purposes of creating user profiles or providing targeted advertising.”
The ruling has been called a “tremendous victory for online privacy” by Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit consumer advocate group.
John M. Simpson, the groups director said:
“This is a historic step for holding Internet communications subject to the same privacy laws that exist in the rest of society. The court rightly rejected Google’s tortured logic that you have to accept intrusions of privacy if you want to send email. Companies like Google can’t simply do whatever they want with our data and emails.”