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Gmail users have no "reasonable expectation" that their emails are confidential, Google has said in a court filing.
Consumer Watchdog, the advocacy group that uncovered the filing, called the revelation a "stunning admission." It comes as Google and its peers are under pressure to explain their role in the National Security Agency's (NSA) mass surveillance of US citizens and foreign nationals.
In its motion to dismiss the case, Google said the plaintiffs were making "an attempt to criminalize ordinary business practices" that have been part of Gmail's service since its introduction. Google said "all users of email must necessarily expect that their emails will be subject to automated processing."
According to Google: "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 [electronic communications service] provider in the course of delivery."
This is just the latest instance of the growing pressure that is being focused on Google and its privacy policies and practices. The European Union has passed laws setting stricter standards than those applied by US law. So far Google has been generally dismissive in its responses about abiding by them.
The analogy employed here of a secretary opening a business letter addressed to her boss is seriously off the mark. Google's practice is like the Post Office reading all of the mail it delivers. Supposedly what Google is doing here is searching for data to be used in its various targeting schemes for searches and advertising. However, just as with our concerns over the NSA data collection, there is no way to know what over uses it might be put to.
I am a gmail user. I guess I should start all my messages with Deal Google Eye.