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Google is not throwing out Gmail privacy

Posted: , by Michael H.

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Google is not throwing out Gmail privacy
We've gotten a number of e-mails from readers who, like many others, have misinterpreted a quote that has been taken out of context from Google's recent summary motion to dismiss statement in a class-action lawsuit. Taken out of context, the quote says that Gmail users have "no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties". Of course, when you take it in context, Google is not saying it is throwing out privacy. In fact, Google isn't saying anything new at all. 

First of all, the section isn't even talking about Gmail users, it is specifically labeled for "Non-Gmail Plaintiffs". Google argues that:
While the non-Gmail Plaintiffs are not bound to Google’s contractual terms, they nonetheless impliedly consent to Google’s practices by virtue of the fact that all users of email must necessarily expect that their emails will be subject to automated processing.

The full quote that is being misinterpreted goes like this:
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 communications are processed by the recipient’s ECS [electronic communication service] provider in the course of delivery. Indeed, 'a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.' Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735, 743-44 (1979).

So, as you can see, the entire point is that automatic processing is such a "widely understood and accepted" practice that users are implied to consent to the practice each time they send an e-mail. This idea is called the "third-party doctrine" which holds "that knowingly revealing information to a third party relinquishes Fourth Amendment protection in that information". And, the quote which Google uses from Smith v. Maryland is a case which is often cited as the case in which the "third-party doctrine" was upheld. 

The quote is a controversial one, as is the "third-party doctrine" in general. But, as of right now, that is the law. And, whether or not you agree with the law (and we would certainly understand those who don't agree with it), the fact stands that it is the law, and Google abides by it. It should also be remembered that the "third-party doctrine" is only being used to defend automatic processing, all of Google's other privacy policies still stand, so your e-mail is not shared with anyone unless you consent (or the NSA uses another questionable law to gain access).

source: The Verge

6 Comments
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posted on 14 Aug 2013, 22:54 1

1. Mxyzptlk (Posts: 3571; Member since: 21 Apr 2012)


Google is a giant company. With all their changes and actions in the past few years, it's very hard to even trust google with sensitive info.

Maybe google should actually clarify what they mean and not mislead users. People care about their privacy and how their data is being used.

posted on 14 Aug 2013, 22:55

2. Mxyzptlk (Posts: 3571; Member since: 21 Apr 2012)


And by clarify I mean make said comment more clear. People do have the right to know how their personal data is being used.

posted on 14 Aug 2013, 22:58 9

3. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2675; Member since: 26 May 2011)


It is all laid out extremely clearly in Google's privacy policy:http://www.google.com/policies/privacy/

posted on 15 Aug 2013, 05:06 1

4. gazmatic (Posts: 625; Member since: 06 Sep 2012)


it is not that google forwards your messages but the fact that they datamine every personal and private details like like your name, email address, telephone number or credit card and sell it for ad revenue

"We will share personal information with companies, organizations or individuals outside of Google if we have a good-faith belief that access, use, preservation or disclosure of the information is reasonably necessary to:

meet any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request.
enforce applicable Terms of Service, including investigation of potential violations.
detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security or technical issues.
protect against harm to the rights, property or safety of Google, our users or the public as required or permitted by law.
We may share aggregated, non-personally identifiable information publicly and with our partners – like publishers, advertisers or connected sites. For example, we may share information publicly to show trends about the general use of our services."

they believe that because you use their service and upload information to their servers that gives them the rights to the contents

most people object to this

just because something is legal doesn't make it right

remember...slavery, segregation, torture and indefinite detention were also legal

posted on 15 Aug 2013, 07:46 1

5. sum182 (Posts: 229; Member since: 19 Nov 2011)


This hold true for pretty much every company now a days...datamining....Its sickening. Did you know since windows XP, every version of Windows has datamining software BUILT INTO IT? But unfortunately everywhere does it, and is allowed to, because they keep it "anonymous". So, pretty much, the dont get my name, or EXACT address (probably down to street), but everything else is open. As far as any company I trust with it, i trust google the most.

posted on 15 Aug 2013, 08:48

6. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2675; Member since: 26 May 2011)


I think you may have missed a phrase: "we may share aggregated, *Non-Personally Identifiable Information*..."

That means no name, no address, no e-mail, no credit card number or anything else. Just general info like that there is a male in New York who likes pizza and searches for OxyClean a lot who takes the subway from Brooklyn to mid-town every day.

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