Google Defends Scanning of Gmail for Advertising

06 September 2013 Internet, IT & e-Discovery Blog Blog
Authors: Peter Vogel

A class action against Google claims that Google violated laws by scanning Gmail notwithstanding the Terms of Service that expressly allows Google to scan Gmail. The allegations in this class action includes the following:

...claim that the automated processing of email in Google’s Gmail service violates the Federal Wiretap Act, as amended by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“ECPA”), and its Florida, Maryland, and Pennsylvania state law analogues.

...claim that Google’s automated processing of email violates the California Invasion of Privacy Act (“CIPA”).

Google filed its Motion to Dismiss the class action lawsuit in the US District Court in San Jose, California and included the following argument:

This case involves Plaintiffs’ effort to criminalize ordinary business practices that have been part of Google’s free Gmail service since it was introduced nearly a decade ago.

Google claims to have more than 400 million Gmail users that:

Like all email providers, Google applies automated systems for the delivery of email.

As part of this processing, Google’s automated systems scan email content to filter out spam, detect computer viruses, and provide various features, including functions that allow users to search their email messages, automatically sort incoming email, and others.

These systems are also used to display advertisements targeted to email content, as Google has disclosed since the inception of Gmail nearly a decade ago.

Gmail’s advertising-based business model is similar to that of other free email services offered by Yahoo, AOL, and Hotmail.

How this case is decided may have far-reaching impact for all free webmail providers. 

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