Concerned About Privacy? Don’t Use Gmail

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Google's attorneys say that people sending email to a Gmail account shouldn't expect privacy.

Google’s attorneys told a federal judge that its practice of reading Gmail users’ emails to pick which ads it shows is like a secretary opening a business letter.

Consumer Watchdog posted Google’s filing at the U.S. District Court of Northern California, which says in part:

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 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).

The filing seeks to dismiss a class-action lawsuit that says Google is violating federal and state wiretap laws by reading user emails to make ad decisions.

“Google’s brief uses a wrong-headed analogy; sending an email is like giving a letter to the post office,” says John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director. “I expect the post office to deliver the letter based on the address written on the envelope. I don’t expect the mail carrier to open my letter and read it.”

Or to then shove junk mail in your mailbox based on the letter’s contents, one might add. Consumer Watchdog suggests people stop using Gmail if they are concerned about privacy.

While it’s not a direct response to the lawsuit, a new Microsoft-commissioned study found that 90 percent of email users agree with the statement, “my inbox should be my most private place on the Internet.” The results were shared alongside the company’s digs against Google’s recent practice of sending users advertisements that look like email messages. Microsoft calls them “Gspam.”

“They look like regular emails, with a sender, subject line, and bolded ‘unread’ font, but they are definitely not – they are Gspam ads from Google,” Microsoft-run Scroogled.com says.

Have you seen any of these “Gspam” ads? Are you likely to switch email providers based on Google’s stance? Let us know what you think on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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