Tech-Friendly: Google to court: Gmail users should not expect privacy

August 21, 2013

By Paul Gorski

Consumer Watchdog recently reported that Google filed court documents that imply that Gmail e-mail may not be private. Read the Consumerwatchdog.org column at http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/newsrelease/google-tells-court-you-cannot-expect-privacy-when-sending-messages-gmail-people-who-care.

Google’s court filing states: “Just as a sender of a letter to a business colleague cannot be surprised that the recipient’s assistant opens the letter, people who use web-based email today cannot be surprised if their emails are processed by the recipient’s [email provider] in the course of delivery. Indeed, ‘a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.’”

Consumer Watchdog later reported that Google apparently disputes this interpretation of the court document by issuing a statement: “We take our users’ privacy and security very seriously; recent reports claiming otherwise are simply untrue. We have built industry-leading security and privacy features into Gmail — and no matter who sends an email to a Gmail user, those protections apply.” Read that report at http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/newsrelease/google-either-lying-court-or-public-consumer-watchdog-says.

The dispute appears to be regarding the definition of “privacy.” Google appears to believe its e-mail scanning processes, whether for malware or content matching for advertising and integrated personal services, is “private.” Google claims it isn’t the “bad guy,” but rather is protecting you from outside threats. Google’s general privacy policy statement may be found at http://www.google.com/policies/privacy/.

In related news, Senior Assistant Editor Brandon Reid recently reported, in “Encrypted e-mail providers cease operations, block government access” (Aug. 14-20 issue), that two encrypted e-mail providers have shut down their services as a result of government demands to access their users’ content.

I believe your e-mails should be treated as private correspondence, just like mail sent via the United States Postal Service. It is a federal offense to tamper with U.S. mail, why isn’t it a crime for an e-mail provider to open, examine and otherwise tamper with my personal e-mail?

We need to pass laws that ensure the privacy of our personal and business e-mail correspondence.

Send comments regarding e-mail privacy to me at paul@paulgorski.com, or post comments with this column at rockrivertimes.com.

Paul Gorski (www.paulgorski.com) has been a technology manager nearly 20 years, specializing in workflow solutions for printing, publishing and advertising computer users. Originally destined to be a chemist, his interest in computers began in college when he wrote a program to analyze data from lab instruments he hard-wired to the back of an Apple IIe.

From the Aug. 21-27, 2013, issue

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