On Your Side Alert: Gmail Privacy Concerns

Published: Nov. 27, 2013 at 5:01 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 27, 2013 at 11:08 PM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If you use Google's Gmail service, you've probably seen the recent headlines about privacy concerns. Right now Google is working to get a judge to throw out a class-action lawsuit that claims it violated privacy laws by having an automated processor scan emails.

The company admits it uses an automated system to scan emails to deliver targeted Ads. University of Richmond Law Professor, Jim Gibson, says it's a lucrative business model. "This is how Google makes its money. It tries to get to know who you are and target advertising to you accordingly. So you better give up Google if you don't want Google reading your stuff," he tells us.

Despite a recent class action lawsuit, that claims its violating privacy laws, Google stands by its email scanning procedure. So far, the judge says the case can move forward. "If Google is right and you don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy in your email communications, that means that government doesn't need a warrant to read your email communications either, because that is pretty much the same legal standard that we use when we are deciding whether a warrant is necessary for electronic communications," Gibson explains.

We contacted Google about the recent lawsuit and allegations of privacy violations. The company released a statement that says, "We've asked the court to let us appeal. Automated scanning allows us to provide Gmail users with security and spam protection, as well as other great features like priority inbox."

"Google tried to argue that everybody knows we do this, so when you send an email to a Gmail user, you know we are going to read it, sort of an implied consent theory but that is what the judge shot down," Gibson says. Google argues Gmail users consented to the email scanning when they agreed to Google's terms of services but Professor Gibson says Gmail users are not the only ones claiming their privacy is being violated.

"The reason it is an issue now is that the folks in the current class action suit aren't Google subscribers, they are people who send emails to Gmail users and so they never consented to Google's terms of use, because they don't have Gmail accounts," he says. It's a privacy battle that will play out very publicly. If you're not happy Gmail's terms of use, Gibson says you can always switch to another service.

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