Concerned About Privacy? Don’t Use Gmail

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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.

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Comments & discussion

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  • whitewolf9

    So I guess that means every time I send a letter through the Post Office, they can open it up and read it?

  • Barbara Nichols

    I’m not sure I am 100% in agreement with the premise of this article. Rarely, if ever, do I mention anything “ad” related in email to friends and family. What I DO think Gmail is doing is watching the sites I visit…I immediately get ads related to those.

  • Cindy Kadinger

    Welcome to the digital age. The only way to be totally free from prying eyes is to go off line for everything and live in a cave. No utility bills, no mortgage or rent, no cable bill, no grocery savings cards, and no banks……use cash for everything. Still, Obama’s drones might find you and take you out cuz you might look like an undesirable.

    Nothing will ever be private again, but look on the bright side: all these start ups for internet security will be booming.

    • Vito V

      Can you spell PARTISAN?

  • I.Popoff

    When I sign in to Gmail and begin perusing the contents of my inbox, I have noticed that at some point the secured lock symbol at the beginning of the url bar will acquire a yellow triangle, which according to Gmail indicates there is unsecured content on the page, that when in transit, can be viewed or modified by an attacker.

  • Jcatz4

    I have a Gmail acct. and I don’t think that I have ever received any ads from anyone that I wondered how I got them.

  • Exquisite Taste

    Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735, 743-44 (1979) and Google’s attorneys talk like the scum bag fools they are. Gmail should be boycotted.

  • http://www.ferreemoney.com/ Neil Ferree

    Simply install Rapportive into your Gmail client and ALL the ads go poof! Google will still track your every stroke and site visit, but the NSA is all over that anyway

  • whitewolf9

    Same legal principle; if one puts one’s communication online or in the mailbox, it is still in the hands of a third party. One might fall back on the argument of an affirmative action on the part of the post office to scan the mail to differentiate the two, but essentially that is what Google is doing. Courts have a tendency to extend these principles piece by piece.

  • Daniel

    What about SPAM filtering? Is that any less invasive? Most spam filters only work by being able to read the contents of an email.