Google Facing New Gmail Privacy Battle

Google has been hit with another lawsuit alleging that it violates people's privacy by scanning Gmail messages in order to surround them with ads.

This latest case was brought by San Francisco resident Daniel Matera, who says he doesn't have a Gmail account, but is forced to communicate with Gmail users due to the "ubiquity of Gmail, and the fact that tens if not hundreds of millions of Gmail accounts are presently in existence."

Like others who have challenged Google's Gmail ads, Matera alleges that Google "intercepts" email messages and sells ads based on their contents.

But his complaint also includes other allegations, including that Google "catalogues" the data it extracted from messages in order to create profiles of users, which the company allegedly stores indefinitely. "The future purposes of this indefinitely stored information are unclear and have not been disclosed," he alleges in a complaint filed on Friday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Matera, who is seeking class-action status, alleges that Google is violating a California privacy law and the federal wiretap law by intercepting the messages without his consent.

Google declined to comment for this article.

Google's terms of service currently disclose that it analyzes the contents of email messages for features including "tailored advertising." But Matera says that as a non-Gmail user, he never agreed to those terms.

Yahoo currently is facing a class-action alleging that it violates the privacy of non-Yahoo account holders by scanning messages for ad-targeting purposes.

In a blow to Yahoo, Koh recently rejected the company's argument that the case doesn't lend itself to class-action treatment. Yahoo contended that questions about whether Web users consented to the email scans must be litigated on a user-by-user basis, but Koh said the case posed the kinds of common questions that don't require separate rulings for each consumer.

Last year, Google resolveda lawsuit brought by other Web users -- Gmail account holders as well as non-Gmail users -- who accused the company of violating their privacy by scanning Gmail messages. The settlement terms were never disclosed.

Before agreeing to settle that matter, Google unsuccessfully argued that the case should be dismissed on the grounds that the consumers consented to the scans. U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh in the Northern District of California rejected that argument, ruling in 2013 that Google's terms didn't clearly explain to users that the company might send ads based on email content. Google subsequently revised its terms of service.

1 comment about "Google Facing New Gmail Privacy Battle".
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  1. Alan Wasserstrom from None, September 12, 2015 at 9:35 a.m.

    Interesting privacy question outlined clearly.

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