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Can Google Base Ads On E-mails Sent To Gmail Accounts?

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the can-and-do dept.

Advertising 171

concealment writes "A new lawsuit targets Google for reading e-mails to target ads, according to TechCrunch. But the issue isn't that Google is reading e-mails from registered users; rather, the company is using e-mails sent from other services to Google users to target ads as well. Google has gotten the side-eye a few times in the past for using e-mail content to serve context-based ads to its Gmail users. And for those Gmail users, Google's hide is covered: the terms of service explicitly state that users' e-mail content determines what ads they see."

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Are you new? (1, Offtopic)

OriginalSpaceMan (695146) | about 2 years ago | (#41596071)

Nothing to see here.

Re:Are you new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41596155)

It's a new lawsuit, so it's a valid post surely.

Nothing to see here, except for the OP.

Re:Are you new? (1)

DJRumpy (1345787) | about 2 years ago | (#41596601)

I believe a *Whoosh* is in order...

As to the topic at hand, I find it interesting that the question isn't "Should google be targeting non-subscriber email ads", but whether or not they should be looking at ANY email content.

At what point does it become ok for any personal email regardless of 'sender' to be used for targeted ads based on content?

How far is the open source community willing to go (sell themselves) in support of a company that has no interest in protecting any privacy?

Re:Are you new? (5, Insightful)

egamma (572162) | about 2 years ago | (#41597021)

As to the topic at hand, I find it interesting that the question isn't "Should google be targeting non-subscriber email ads", but whether or not they should be looking at ANY email content.

At what point does it become ok for any personal email regardless of 'sender' to be used for targeted ads based on content?

They explicitly say in their terms of service, since day 1, that they will serve ads based on your emails. If you don't like this, then you shouldn't have signed up for a gmail account.

Re:Are you new? (0)

DJRumpy (1345787) | about 2 years ago | (#41597101)

Had you actually read the article, this is regarding the SENDER, not the recipient. The sender signed no such agreement with Google. Hence the lawsuit stating that Google is violating the senders privacy since in this case the sender does not have a google account and signed no agreement.

From TFA:

Wayne Plimmer of British Columbia has filed a class-action lawsuit against Google for using his e-mails for ads. Plimmer is not a Gmail user, but his concern is that Google is reading and using his e-mails to serve ads to Gmail readers too. Being a non-Gmail user, he never agreed to the terms of service, so the legality of what Google is doing seems murky.

Re:Are you new? (2)

C0R1D4N (970153) | about 2 years ago | (#41597203)

Mail in the real world belongs to the sender until it is sent and the recipient afterwards. Since the gmail user agreed to have his email crawled by google I do not see a case here. Same as if I show my friend a letter before I put it in the mailbox, or a letter I received and opened.a

Re:Are you new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41597281)

Are you seriously proposing that the sender is bound to Google's agreement via some third party guilt by association?

Does google send every sender a disclaimer that any mail received by Google is not private? The lawyers would chew you up. It is an indefensible argument.

Re:Are you new? (3, Insightful)

Dishevel (1105119) | about 2 years ago | (#41597391)

What he is saying is that when you give something to someone you no longer have control over it.

Re:Are you new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41597677)

No it isn't. This lawsuit is insane nonsense. Google is not serving ads to non-users based on email they sent users. Google is serving ads to people who agree to it. Mail, once sent, belongs to the recipient which is why those non-enforceable BS corporate disclaimers are hilarious. Reread the article without your paid anti-Google hat on and this will become immediately clear

Re:Are you new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41597959)

Had you actually read the thread (or what the post he quoted in his reply) you would've realize the person he was responding to stated Google shouldn't read emails when they originate with Google either.

Re:Are you new? (2)

JustOK (667959) | about 2 years ago | (#41596261)

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Re:Are you new? (5, Funny)

dintech (998802) | about 2 years ago | (#41596699)

Look, we've only got a couple of days to get rid of the body. The neighbors are getting suspicious about the smell. Do you have a saw?

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Evil (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41596095)

I knew there was an evil mega- corporation hiding in there.. catching bees with honey and what not.. free services.. ha! bait

Re:Evil (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | about 2 years ago | (#41596223)

Feel free to use the paid version of Google's email service. ad-free.

Re:Evil (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41596449)

If it has only just been revealed to you that the free version of Gmail uses email to select targeted ads for the users, you don't belong here.

Yes, we know. (1)

hattig (47930) | about 2 years ago | (#41596107)

I don't think this surprises anyone.

Also, it's not like your emails are pored over by a human, it's just a computer system.

The main issue would be what the computer system "learns" and then tags onto your profile, or if it is anonymised should someone get hold of this learning data.

Re:Yes, we know. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41596183)

it's all anonymized. people are just retarded.

Re:Yes, we know. (2)

somersault (912633) | about 2 years ago | (#41596239)

How can it be both "anonymized" and persistently linked to your account at the same time?

Re:Yes, we know. (2)

Nerdfest (867930) | about 2 years ago | (#41596339)

The companies supplying the ads are not given personal information ... it's not anonymous really, Google knows who you are.

Re:Yes, we know. (2)

Sique (173459) | about 2 years ago | (#41596497)

But it is still anonymous in that sense that it works without identifying you to any human.

Re:Yes, we know. (3, Insightful)

danhuby (759002) | about 2 years ago | (#41596615)

As time goes on, that distinction will become decreasingly relevant.

Re:Yes, we know. (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | about 2 years ago | (#41597031)

I don't think you should count on it not being a human. I don't recall anything specifically stating it in the agreement. The odds are low that a person would ever look at it, but for tweaking algorithms, etc, a human might look at this stuff. In general, a person could read your email in transit though, so I can't see getting too upset about it. As usual, if it's private, encrypt it.

Re:Yes, we know. (1)

dubbreak (623656) | about 2 years ago | (#41597307)

In general, a person could read your email in transit though, so I can't see getting too upset about it. As usual, if it's private, encrypt it.

Exactly. But your average person doesn't understand the difference between sending something plaintext and encrypted. I guess you could use the analogy of a postcard vs a letter in an envelope. If you don't want the information you are sending read by others would you put it on a post card? Anyone along the delivery route (mailbox, sorting facilities, devliverer etc) can easily read what's on it. If you put it in an envelope it's protected (and in the case of mail and encrypted email protected by law.. depending on what country you live in).

What's the US legislation on reading non-encrypted transmissions? Is there an expectation of privacy when you are shouting across the internet?

Re:Yes, we know. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41597445)

"As usual, if it's private, encrypt it."

That's of no use, you'll just get a myriad of encryption ads.

Re:Yes, we know. (2)

Riceballsan (816702) | about 2 years ago | (#41597047)

I believe it is from the advertisers viewpoint, possibly even from human knowledge within google. People picking keywords to target their adds can see that there are 500,000 people who have sent e-mails mentioning the phrase toe fungus in New york city, to target their anti fungal cream advertisements. None of those advertisers will know that John Smith who lives at X, that is the one who has that. Google employees most likely don't know that, depending on how their system is set up it could even be rigged so that humans themselves cannot figure it out (Yes the software may or may not have it, but it is possible to design the software to not actually allow the humans themselves to view this information). Of course beyond the source code to the entire system being given, we would have to take them entirely at their word as to whether or not it is indeed set up that way.

Re:Yes, we know. (1)

somersault (912633) | about 2 years ago | (#41597247)

Well, I thought that much was obvious (that the data advertisers see, if any, is anonymous), but it is definitely not all anonymised otherwise there would be no way to link it back to your account.

Re:Yes, we know. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41597195)

"it's not anonymous really, Google knows who you are."

Just don't log the fuck in or use an adblocker, who cares?

Yes, of course (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41596131)

Despite what disclaimer you may try to put on your email, when you send it, it belongs to the recipient. If they choose to let Google target ads based on it, that's their call.

Re:Yes, of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41596287)

Sure? There have been cases that receipents published recieved letters from famous authors after their death which where successfully sued for copyright infringement. I amnut sure which country it was.

Aren't the Damages a Little Insane? (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 2 years ago | (#41596135)

From the article:

The lawsuit is on behalf of "all persons in the province of British Columbia who have sent e-mail to a Gmail account" and demands statutory damages for breach of copyright of $500 per e-mail that Google has used for ads. The lawsuit also seeks an injunction against Google's use of e-mails going forward. Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

$500 per e-mail used for ads? Am I the only person that finds that to be just a tad bit insane?

Wayne Plimmer of British Columbia has filed a class-action lawsuit against Google for using his e-mails for ads. Plimmer is not a Gmail user, but his concern is that Google is reading and using his e-mails to serve ads to Gmail readers too. Being a non-Gmail user, he never agreed to the terms of service, so the legality of what Google is doing seems murky.

Okay. I can see that but can you explain how $500 per e-mail for everyone in BC is just about right for how much damages this has caused you?

Re:Aren't the Damages a Little Insane? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#41596225)

Why should they be entitled to anything? They're also free to start their own ad-supported free email system, and if it is better than gmail (snicker snort) then they will surely have the same opportunity. Wake me up when gmail suppresses the ads in the email in some way other than not showing images by default (which it always informs you it's done.)

I Don't Follow Your Logic (2)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 2 years ago | (#41596347)

Why should they be entitled to anything?

Well, I sympathize because the sender (not the recipient) never agreed to this e-mail introspection in any sort of ToS or anything with Google. And I feel like someone should be free to stand up their own e-mail server and have complete freedom from ads at some expense to themselves and some work if they so desire. That choice should always be there and it rubs me just a bit the wrong way that you can't do that if everyone else is using Google. Now, that said, I think in the end the ruling should go down something like this: tough shit. You can configure your e-mail server not to hand off any e-mails to Google servers or servers that would then route it to Google Mail. You want to run your own server, you implement your own security and white lists/black lists. You're basically acknowledging that the receiving server you are submitting data can do what they please with it (barring current laws like the CANSPAM Act, or whatever Canada has). So I think this needs to be sorted out and it needs to be determined whether this data and data analysis by Google is innocuous or if it is truly sensitive enough to be identified as, say, personal data and credit card numbers submitted to a site for ordering products.

They're also free to start their own ad-supported free email system, and if it is better than gmail (snicker snort) then they will surely have the same opportunity.

That logic doesn't follow. If I find out that someone is doing something morally reprehensible (though not illegal) and want a court to look into the situation, it's certainly not my desire to go around being a douche bag like them and trying to be a bigger jerk than them. This instance isn't a user complaining, it's a non-user complaining of a company's practices that he feels affects him.

Wake me up when gmail suppresses the ads in the email in some way other than not showing images by default (which it always informs you it's done.)

Again, it only informs the user of the system, not a sender who may be sending e-mails that are then inspected by Google algorithms.

Re:I Don't Follow Your Logic (2)

GuldKalle (1065310) | about 2 years ago | (#41596593)

And I feel like someone should be free to stand up their own e-mail server and have complete freedom from ads at some expense to themselves and some work if they so desire.

You can have freedom from ads. Gmail is not sending ads to non-users.

If I made a deal with some ad-seller that I'd forward all my mail to him, and he'd send me back some ads, how would you conclude that the ad-seller infringed? Shouldn't you be mad at me, not the ad-seller?

Re:I Don't Follow Your Logic (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#41596617)

Again, it only informs the user of the system, not a sender who may be sending e-mails that are then inspected by Google algorithms.

The sender is entitled to nothing whatsoever. The viewer is entitled to read their messages in a form that makes them happy, which Google apparently provides. Nobody along the way is entitled to display the full message, or read the full message. Now, if Google is suppressing part of the message in a way that the reader does not desire, and at the same time using part of the message to display targeted ads, there will be a problem, but since users desire the default suppression of images (which you can configure away, IIRC) there's nothing to see here.

Re:Aren't the Damages a Little Insane? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41598261)

Only a penis writes things like snicker and snort in an email.

Re:Aren't the Damages a Little Insane? (0)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#41596237)

AFAIK in the American legal system there is no upper limit on damages so everyone claims a number close to infinity at first.

Re:Aren't the Damages a Little Insane? (3, Insightful)

mkendall (69179) | about 2 years ago | (#41596385)

AFAIK in the American legal system ...

British Columbia is in Canada, not America.

Re:Aren't the Damages a Little Insane? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41596829)

Which means the lawsuit is actually for only about $50.

Re:Aren't the Damages a Little Insane? (1)

Stewie241 (1035724) | about 2 years ago | (#41597061)

Ummm... you do realize that the Canadian dollar is worth more than the US dollar, right?

Re:Aren't the Damages a Little Insane? (1, Insightful)

tysonedwards (969693) | about 2 years ago | (#41597041)

Well, studies have shown that a significant number of Americans can't even pick out their own country on a map, so why assume that they would understand that someone doing something stupid within the legal system could reside outside the US?

Citation: Huffigton Post poll finds that 37% of Americans unable to locate America on map.

Re:Aren't the Damages a Little Insane? (1)

similar_name (1164087) | about 2 years ago | (#41598167)

Are you referring to this [huffingtonpost.com] ?

You might have missed this part.

Editor's note: This post is a satire.

To be fair, it's very believable.

Re:Aren't the Damages a Little Insane? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41598365)

I thought Canada, USA, Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, Argentina and a bunch of others were in America.

Re:Aren't the Damages a Little Insane? (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | about 2 years ago | (#41596373)

I'm not sure how he feels copyright applies either. The emails are not being copied, they're being read. Of course, he also seems to be a nutbar. If he sent me a piece of regular mail, I'm completely entitled to do what I want with it, including showing the content to another entity so that they can target ads for him.

Re:Aren't the Damages a Little Insane? (2)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41596533)

If he sent me a piece of regular mail, I'm completely entitled to do what I want with it, including showing the content to another entity ...

... to demand price matching on an advertisement?

Maybe its an end run to destroy that kind of retail interaction.

Re:Aren't the Damages a Little Insane? (2)

the_B0fh (208483) | about 2 years ago | (#41596397)

Bullshit lawsuit obviously. If you feel that strongly about sending emails to gmail recipients, block it at your outbound MTA or you know what - don't send that email to gmail recipients.

That google is an ad supported company is well known. If you choose to interact with them on an ad supported platform, what did you think was going to happen? Sheesh.

Re:Aren't the Damages a Little Insane? (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about 2 years ago | (#41596631)

So what happens when I setup my email at IndustrialComplex@fakeaddress.com to be processed by gmail?

Not that I think the lawsuit is valid, but you can't really know that google will be handling the mail beforehand without some serious investigation going on.

Re:Aren't the Damages a Little Insane? (2)

the_B0fh (208483) | about 2 years ago | (#41596705)

If you are sending emails out, shouldn't you take responsibility for what you are sending out and who you are sending it to?

Re:Aren't the Damages a Little Insane? (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | about 2 years ago | (#41597139)

I think it's unreasonable for an email sender to have to research who handles the email for every domain in the world that they send email to, and keep up to date on which of the millions of email hosting companies engage in email scanning for advertising purposes. So no, I don't think the sender has to take responsibility for who runs the mail servers that his recipients use.

Re:Aren't the Damages a Little Insane? (2)

Dishevel (1105119) | about 2 years ago | (#41597539)

For the last 20 years as far as I can tell it has been deemed unreasonable for any "Normal person" to be responsible for any part of their life when there are deep pockets somewhere near by.

Re:Aren't the Damages a Little Insane? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41597705)

It's neither sender's responsibility nor right to control what recipient does with the letter. Recipient might show your letter to your wife or his lawyer or Google, or he might forward it to whole his contact list. Unless the recipient is legally obligated to keep it private, he might do whatever he wants with letters. With e-mail it would mean he can't use free gmail account, or any other service with terms allowing third parties to read mail to correspond with you - but again it's his responsibility, not your or email provider's.

Re:Aren't the Damages a Little Insane? (1)

Stewie241 (1035724) | about 2 years ago | (#41597123)

Unless the person setting their domain up does something unusual then you can tell it is being processed by google by looking at the MX records for the domain. If the user is just using GMail's ability to suck in email via POP or IMAP or is forwarding their mail to Google, then it would seem it would be the user who is sending your mail to Google who would be at fault.

Re:Aren't the Damages a Little Insane? (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about 2 years ago | (#41597623)

That's kind of my point though. It means you have to check the MX records of everyone you ever email just to ensure that it isn't being sent to be processed?

It's a bit of two front problem. We need to be able to communicate easily with people, and we need the ability to be secure in our communications. Checking the MX records for everyone violates that first aspect.

We need a system that behaves like, well mail. You send a letter TO someone, and if anyone screws with it or reads it enroute they can be prosecuted. It's sad because it isn't like a letter is anything close to secure, but we seem to pretend that with things like email that just because something is technically possible it is justified.

There is nothing really technically preventing the post office from reading the contents of your letters, so we made sure our laws said 'don't do that'. We really need the same approach with email. Sure, you would have to trust the entity handling your email, but the same is true for letters. And nothing in this would prevent you from encoding your email (as you can now) just as you can currently encode your letters.

And in the end, you still have to rely on the recipient protecting that data. I don't think it is unreasonable for a ban on scanning incoming email outside of the purposes of blocking spam, etc. Just a brief period of protection that terminates at 'delivery'.

Re:Aren't the Damages a Little Insane? (1)

Stewie241 (1035724) | about 2 years ago | (#41597987)

I sort of assumed that when mail gets sent the MX records are checked anyway so that your email client knows where to deliver the message. I could be wrong on that though.

The issue in question seems to be the fact that the recipients have given permission to other parties (i.e. Google) to read the data. In this I would concede that there is nothing a sender can do to protect his/her data if the recipient is sharing it with others.

Re:Aren't the Damages a Little Insane? (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | about 2 years ago | (#41597521)

Moving your domain to Apps is a paid move.
No ads.
Love it.

Re:Aren't the Damages a Little Insane? (1)

pdabbadabba (720526) | about 2 years ago | (#41596455)

Well, clearly the $500 is excessive as compensation. But that's just the point: it isn't compensation. Typically statutory damages are set higher than compensatory damages would have been for the added punitive effect and, sometimes, to encourage enforcement through private lawsuits.

So, sure, we can debate whether $500 is fair, but it's beside the point to argue that it isn't fair because it overcompensates. It is supposed to overcompensate. The right question is whether it's fair on the grounds intended to justify it: as punishment (and, of course, we can and should always ask the second order question whether this is an acceptable justification for statutory damages).

Re:Aren't the Damages a Little Insane? (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | about 2 years ago | (#41598239)

It's far better than the usual fines they get which are pocket change to the company and therefore don't teach them a lesson.

And given how much a citizen, who has far less money, gets fined for sharing MP3s, I'd actually say $500 per email is not enough.

Re:Aren't the Damages a Little Insane? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41598425)

Murky? The moment it becomes murky is when the email entered the gmail domain. At that moment, it's not entirely Wayne's property any more. The recipient can choose to act on his incoming mail, to let an agent (google) scan for keywords and file the messages accordingly, to autodelete spam, etc. It's the recipient's email to act on or to delegate action upon, not the sender's. This would be like advertisers suing someone for choosing an unorthodox use for their junk mail (papier mache, ransom note, or pop art).

I carefully wrote 'not **entirely**' because I'm the 'owner' of a (very expensive) letter that gained a bit of federal-law significance: a billionaire once had his legal weasels serve me a takedown letter, then when I scanned/posted it, they filed copyright papers on it and tried to sue me for copyright infringement. So, Wayne's email still has copyright encumberances. IANAL, but there might be additional rights he can claw back -- I'm just not seeing them here: google is merely **reading** his emails, per a relationship / agreement that has nothing to do with the one residual right I see him having: copyright (republication).

business plan (1, Insightful)

mudpup (14555) | about 2 years ago | (#41596243)

Do intelligent people trust a company whose business plan is to sale your data to any company willing to pay.

Re:business plan (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41596321)

Mod parent down! It's perfectly accurate but anti-Google!!!

Re:business plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41596327)

Do intelligent people pose intelligent questions by misspelling words and botching punctuation?

Re:business plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41596375)

This is why I don't trust Apple!

Re:business plan (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | about 2 years ago | (#41596379)

They do if they consider it a fair trade for the services they're getting in return. They're not really 'free'.

Google is covered here. (4, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 2 years ago | (#41596247)

All emails are property of the recipient. And Google has permission to read the email of its users. So it can read any email sent by anybody. In fact it might even have additional rights to enforce spam filters.

Re:Google is covered here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41596401)

I don't know about you in the USA, but where I live, the Law is quite clear. Once the recipient has received the email it's his property. I don't see where the Law allows for the hosting provider to override this right, ToS, or otherwise.

Re:Google is covered here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41596445)

The hosting provider hasn't overridden this right.
The customer signed it away, in exchange for email service.

Re:Google is covered here. (1)

thaylin (555395) | about 2 years ago | (#41596501)

They did not take away the email, they just added ads to it. In addition they do it while it is still in transit technically so it is done before reception.

Re:Google is covered here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41596527)

As the "owner" the recipient can dispose of the email as they see fit (including showing the contents to Google). Google's terms of service contain a pre-existing agreement that their end users will share the contents of the emails in their GMail account with Google.

As such Google is within their rights to exercise that agreement and read any email received by any Gmail account.

Re:Google is covered here. (2)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 2 years ago | (#41596599)

It just means all those servers by all those ISPs that forward the mail can not read the mail. Especially the ISP of the sender can not read the email. It is very unlikely the user would let his local ISP, who is collecting monthly fees to read his emails. In fact I hope some user groups sue to make sure the Gateway ISP does not record your browsing history.

But here Google is not acting as a mere ISP. Google is the email service provider. No body can snoop on email till it is safely delivered to the mail servers of Google. The contract between Google and its users is, "service is free, but I will read your email". Users have agreed. So there is no easy way to use privacy laws to sue Google.

But they can try to get to Google by monopoly and restrictive trade practices act or something. Once Google has a market share above a certain threshold, someone can try to force Google to stop leveraging its market share in email to adversely affect other players in the advertising market. Sort of like, Microsoft should not be able to use its market share in OS to leverage the Office document market. Or the dominance of its market share in Office to force PC makers to kill competing browsers.

The big difference is, the switching costs for going from one Office file format to another is very very high. The switching cost of going away from Gmail is (or used to be) low. Nor is Google having a virtual monopoly status in email. So they are not really the same. But lawyers could try to argue along these lines anyway. Not often we get judges who teach themselves Java to understand how easy/difficult it is write a trivial string comparison function.

The emails arrive in a gmail account.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41596257)

...and once they're in the account, the user agreement says they can be used to target ads to that user. The source of the emails is irrelevant.

Is this a joke? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41596271)

I thought everyone who signed up for gmail from day 1, knew the entire point of the site was that they read your email. WTF?! Telling your thoughts to their ad-targeting bot, is what it's for !

Being a non-Gmail user, he never agreed to the terms of service

Best practices for the last two decades have been that if you don't want potentially the entire world to have access to the contents of an email, you encrypt it. TFA doesn't say he did that. And then on top of that, even when you encrypt email, the recipient can always show it to anyone they want to, which just happens to be what happened here, where every gmail user agreed to automatically show all their email to Google.

People have been saying gmail is a bad idea, all along. That doesn't make it lawsuit-worthy, though. Just because you see "penis-severing scissors" for sale at the store, doesn't mean you're required to buy them and use them. If you do, live with the consequences instead of blaming the manufacturer for the scissors doing what they were plainly intended to do all along.

If non-gmail users have a problem with someone, it isn't Google; it's gmail's users. Those people are idiots and they, not the people who help them fuck themselves, are the problem. Sue the users. They are the ones who made the decision to sell you out.

Email is not secure (5, Informative)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#41596279)

Email protocols are unsecured, sensitive mails should be encrypted.

Re:Email is not secure (1)

CimmerianX (2478270) | about 2 years ago | (#41596745)

GPG for Gmail at the very least.... Problem is getting the technically challenged to use GPG which doesn't lend itself to the grandmas and soccer moms of the world.

Re:Email is not secure (1)

Sloppy (14984) | about 2 years ago | (#41597161)

Totally agreed. There's not nearly as much email encryption as is justified.

But here's a thought experiment. Suppose you send someone an encrypted email. Suppose that other person has signed a contract in blood, that they promise they will send the decrypted plaintext of all the email they ever receive, to an ad company.

How would you know? And whether you knew or not, were you harmed by this? And assuming you were harmed, who harmed you?

I think the person who decides to share all their email, is the most harmful (assuming harm has happened at all). This dude probably doesn't have a case, but if he does, then he's suing the wrong people.

Re:Email is not secure (2)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 2 years ago | (#41597355)

It's less about email and more about tracking and privacy.

You and I with Google accounts have signed up to give our first borns to the mighty mountain view company.

But there are people without, and for them, Google can easily be tracking them and using information gathered from Gmail users to help build up profiles of these non-Google users, who have never agreed to the Google ToS, or more improtantly, the Google Privacy Policy (which applies to Google users only).

Gmail is the target because it's probably the one service that someone who doesn't use Google can inadvertently interact with Google and not get protections of whatever privacy policy Google has because they never agreed to it.

It's a very interestingly crafted lawsuit, to be sure. And quite possibly, depending on a country's privacy laws, leads to some interesting precedents.

Re:Email is not secure (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#41597863)

What I'm saying is, when I send out an unencrypted email open for anyone to snoop on I don't have expectations of privacy. The situation would be different if email protocols were encrypted an Google would take advantage of their position of being one end of the communication to read them.

I'm gonna sue any anti-spam filter (5, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | about 2 years ago | (#41596295)

I'm gonna sue any anti-spam filter - because they ALL read the emails I've sent to other people who use them, without my permission, and may be targeting ads based on that.

And every antivirus software that integrates into Outlook.

And everything that might conceivably view the content of an email en-route (e.g. intermediate mail servers).

If the recipient chooses to use such software - that's up to them. If you send an email to them and they have agreed for Google to receive it on their behalf with their permission to read it, then that's not Google's problem.

It's like suing a courier firm that someone sent to your door to pick up a parcel, because they looked inside the package and the recipient that nominated the courier firm allowed them to.

so that explains it (2)

ch-chuck (9622) | about 2 years ago | (#41596297)

huh - so thats why i keep seeing ads for cryptographic products and services.

fago8z (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41596359)

It there. Bring OF AMERICA) today, head sppining

Re:fago8z (2)

ch-chuck (9622) | about 2 years ago | (#41596485)

he wrote, just before passing out on the keyboard.

So..? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41596393)

I don't see a problem with this, Google makes no attempt to hide what they do and I greatly prefer to see deals on Linux Servers as opposed to Viagra in gmail.
Ok, you may be concerned about your privacy but as others noted: e-mail is not secure anyways, if you're important enough to have someone (as in a person, and not an algorithm) look at your email you should keep it encrypted anyway.

Sue the recipient! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41596395)

The recipient let Google read HIS email messages without his permission! He should sue everyone he sends emails to just in case they do the same.

Be sure to add facebook to that lawsuit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41596525)

I had a friend who googled a few things about childbirth out of curiosity, and then she got ads for all kinds of feminine hygiene/birth control products.

Emails private? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41596539)

If I send an email to anyone, I assume that the email could become public. Whether it is because it is intercepted, someone hacks into the recipients inbox (or my sent items), the recipient's cat jumps on the keyboard and it gets forwarded to half the internet, whatever.

I also assume it might not be only the recipient reading it, no matter how many disclaimers I stick at the bottom. It could be read by the spouse, the child, the boss, the network administrator. Not only that, but there may be some court order meaning the email ends up in the public domain.

This lawsuit is just a bunch of people trying to get rich off Google's back. I signed up to Gmail knowing full well some machine would be scanning emails in and out to monetise it. It's a free service, they have to pay the bills somehow.

Does it leak information between accounts? (3, Interesting)

Geeky (90998) | about 2 years ago | (#41596639)

I have another concern with gmail, which is that it might be leaking ad information between gmail users.

By that I mean that if I'm corresponding with another gmail user, I get ads that are unrelated to anything we've discussed but which may be related to things that they are likely to have emailed or received emails about.

Just to give a trivial example, a friend has a pet. She has emailed me but never once mentioned the pet in email to me. I do not have any pets, nor have I mentioned them in my emails, but I now get ads for pet food. There are other examples that suggest my ads are based on my correspondents emails that weren't sent to me - that they are pulling in the ads based on both of our email histories.

Re:Does it leak information between accounts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41597341)

I have another concern with gmail, which is that it might be leaking ad information between gmail users.

You think that's bad? I'm pretty sure gmail is actually leaking emails between gmail users. I get 4 or 5 emails a week in my gmail inbox that are not addressed to me, but are instead sent to an email address that is similar to mine. They are always part of a conversation, so I'm pretty sure that the actual address they are being sent to exists.

It's mostly just garbage banter, but I did receive a mortgage application that contained all the information anyone would need to commit identity theft. I sent a message saying that they needed to be more careful about this stuff and got an immediate apology, but nothing has changed.

I like it (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41596657)

I actually like that they do this, because you can disable ads with it. If you receive an email at gmail that contains anything "Bad" such as "My mom died last night" then Google disables ads when you view that email. Try it. Long ago I added the string "my dog got hit by a car" to my email sig, in white text so it doesn't show up, as a favor to friends on gmail who get mail from me. They never have to look at ads while reading my emails.

Re:I like it (1)

coinreturn (617535) | about 2 years ago | (#41597699)

Interesting. I like it for a different reason. I'd rather see ads for something I might actually want than for something that is completely irrelevant to me.

Re:I like it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41598405)

Interesting. I like it for a different reason. I'd rather see ads for something I might actually want than for something that is completely irrelevant to me.

How would the hidden dead dog adblock trick help you receive relevant ads? Are you planning to add a hidden shopping list and your hobbies to all your e-mails...

Don't use things you don't understand (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41596681)

Personally, I feel it's ok for people to drive cars even if they don't know how to change a spark plug. But that doesn't mean they have a right to use government to initiate force against others whenever their unreasonable expectation of how engines work, happens to be violated. If someone sues Ford (or worse, a spark plug manufacturer) based on the idea "I didn't know this car used electricity! I thought I was buying a petroleum-powered car!" then maybe that person should be banned for life from doing anything involving a car.

Hopefully Google will try to get a judgement along those lines, so that we can eliminate people like this truly worthless piece of shit who never bothered to take three seconds to think about how email works. (Hint: it involves other people's computers, some of them doing things on their behalf, not yours.) Why would anyone want to ever receive an email from someone with that combination of arrogance and ignorance? The world won't miss him.

Banksy on advertising (5, Interesting)

ljw1004 (764174) | about 2 years ago | (#41596711)

I hate advertising. I liked this quote from Banksy, a UK artist:

"People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you. You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity. Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head. You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs."

Re:Banksy on advertising (2, Interesting)

TheSpoom (715771) | about 2 years ago | (#41597117)

He said better than I could the reason why I have been avoiding ads as much as I can in my daily life. I pay for Pandora so I don't get inserted ads in my music. I use ad-blockers on websites, and pay for the ad-free version if offered. I record television and fast-forward through the ads. Once you're used to avoiding the ads, it's interesting how much clearer things become, and how annoying it is if they can't be avoided in some other medium.

Advertisers can't control my eyeballs or ears.

Ads? What ads? (1)

idontgno (624372) | about 2 years ago | (#41596725)

I have never seen ads in my inbox. Apparently, evil google hasn't found a way to hijack imap.

They can target ads all they want, because I won't see them anyway. They won't even get pageview statistics, since I'm not using their obnoxious webmail interface. MWAHAHAHA!

In just three words (0)

aglider (2435074) | about 2 years ago | (#41596947)

YES THEY CAN!
Maybe they should not, or they might not. But surely they can.
It's a matter or power and grammar.

Suit has no basis (2)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about 2 years ago | (#41597003)

It boils down to one question: Can I legally delegate reading and sorting my e-mail to my secretary/receptionist/administrative-assistant/etc.? That involves exactly the same situation, a third party reading the e-mail with the consent of the recipient. If it's legal, then Plimmer has no basis for his suit. There's a lot of basis for saying the networks and servers carrying the e-mail between the sender and the recipient can't go reading it, but there's not a lot of law restricting what the recipient can do or have done to/with mail and e-mail once they've received it. If you don't want the recipient letting others see the mail, you're going to have to have an agreement in place with them beforehand about that and your only recourse if they spread the mail around anyway will be against them for breach of that agreement. You won't have any recourse against any of the people they gave the mail to, because those people have no duty to you to not look at the recipient's mail (note: the recipient's mail, not yours, it ceased to be yours when you handed it over to the recipient).

google doesn't "read" email ... (1)

swframe (646356) | about 2 years ago | (#41597527)

google doesn't understand what information is actually in the email! "google" doesn't read the way humans "read" email. some google server turns email into a feature vector (set of numbers without meaning). some other server predicts the best ad from the feature vector. there is a feedback loop, when you click on an ad, the system learns which ads are best to display. no employees at google actually reads the user's email. the initial data for making prediction is taken from other sources. the advertiser has no access gmail users' information. with 500 million users sending 100s messages through an automated system, there are bound to be cases where ads seem creepy. no google employee can tell you why their complex system acts creepy because the feedback loop means there is data affecting the prediction that no google employee has created or can understand.

google does make money from content generated by other people. some of those people would like to be paid for the benefit they provide to google. but they are a drop in the ocean of information, google doesn't need them. In a way google does pay for that content by offering its services for free. even the ads are priced on their value to advertiser.

in the end, google is far from perfect but their benefits clearly outweigh their "evilness" unless you produce that tiny drop of information. that is life. sue because it is like buying a lottery ticket.

Breadth of modern tracking is absurd (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41597563)

If you get bored reset any local dns caching services and close your browser.

Fire up wireshark and type 'dns' into the filter box to show only DNS queries.

Next fire up your browser and visit any single site..simply loading the sites home page is normally more than enough. Any of the news media sites, abc, nbc, cbs, fox, forbes, slashdot, nasa..whatever it hardly matters.

I was blown away... I knew there were tracking networks but I did not know it was this bad with soo many firms involved when you make even a single request to a site. If your really bored count the the number of DNS names referenced for which robots.txt has been explicitly configured to deny indexing requests according to google.

gpg (1)

Penurious Penguin (2687307) | about 2 years ago | (#41597575)

Not that this is necessary, but;
gpg -c filename
#Enter passwd, upload, send. However, just be sure to occasionally send large chunks of random copy/pasted nonsense too. You could set up a crontab to send strange output to a specific text file, and use it as a base for all your "confuse" mails. Occasionally I copy/paste large bodies of text, run them through a weak substitution cipher, then email them.
- Making Hal stupid, one email at a time.

What ads? (1)

Tweezak (871255) | about 2 years ago | (#41597913)

mail.google.com/mail/h

Problem solved.

How about someone come up w/ universal encrytion (1)

Streetlight (1102081) | about 2 years ago | (#41598083)

...for all Gmail emails that prevents Google from reading any and all emails? Google already transmits email using HTTPS so that gives some kind of security between sender to Google's servers and from the servers to the receiver, but the mail needs to be encrypted at the sender's and receiver's sites with code and keys Google can't guess. I'm not sure about when one uses a non-browser email reader. Suggestions, anyone?

Re:How about someone come up w/ universal encrytio (1)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | about 2 years ago | (#41598139)

How about stop using Gmail? Seriously you think you are entitled to a right to privacy by volunteering to use Gmail? If you really care about the content of your email, set up your own email server.

You can't opt to use someone's services and then dictate how those services should be offered, it goes the other way around.

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