Court Rules that Gmail Case Can Go Forward, Internet Users Do Not Consent to Routine Inspection of Private Email

A federal district court has ruled that Google may have violated the federal Wiretap Act when it routinely intercepted, read, and acquired the contents of email users for advertising purposes. "The court finds that it cannot conclude that any party -- Gmail users or non-Gmail users -- has consented to Google's reading of e-mail for the purposes of creating user profiles or providing targeted advertising," Judge Lucy Koh stated. The court rejected arguments from Google that the activity occurred in the "ordinary course of business." The court said that the interception must be "instrumental" to the provision of an email service and that Google's business interest was not sufficient to meet that test. The court also found that Google had not obtained consent from users for the ad profiling practices. According to the court, "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 other . . . than the indented recipient of the email." The ruling applies also applies to Google Apps for Education, through which Google obtains emails from educational organizations of students, faculty, staff, and alumni. For more information, see EPIC - Gmail Privacy FAQ.

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