Tags: google | privacy | gmail | users

Google: Don't Expect Privacy

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Tuesday, 13 Aug 2013 11:41 PM

By Matthew Auerbach

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Users of Google’s Gmail service should not expect the emails they send or receive to stay private, Business Insider reports.

According to a motion filed in July by Google in hopes of having a class action complaint dismissed, lawyers representing the Internet company said anyone who turns over any information to a third party has no right to expect that information to stay private.

The motion was based on Smith vs. Maryland, the 1979 Supreme Court case in which the majority decision stated that “a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.”

The brief, obtained by the Consumer Watchdog web site, claims that Google employs automated processes to sift through email for the purposes of providing spam filters, advertising relevant to its users and other features of the Gmail service.

According to the Huffington Post, the class action complaint accuses Google of infringing on the privacy of its users by searching their personal messages for information that will aid in the placement of targeted ads it displays.

The suit calls for Google to make full disclosure of precisely what information it's taking from emails, and to pay damages for these alleged privacy violations.

“Google has finally admitted they don’t respect privacy,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director.

“People should take them at their word; if you care about your email correspondents’ privacy don’t use Gmail.”

The company’s viewpoint is consistent with a statement made in 2009 by Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, in which he made clear Google is simply following the terms laid out by the Patriot Act.

“If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place,” Schmidt said.

“But if you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines, including Google, do retain this information for some time.

And ... we're all subject, in the United States, to the Patriot Act, and it is possible that that information could be made available to the authorities.”

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