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Google's Scanning of Gmail To Deliver Ads May Violate Federal Wiretap Laws

Soulskill posted 1 year,27 days | from the google's-lawyers-must-be-busy-folk dept.

Google 325

New submitter SpacemanukBEJY.53u writes "In a declaration that could make Google very nervous, a U.S. federal judge on Thursday rebuffed Google's defense of its targeted ad system that scans the content of Gmail. Judge Lucy Koh — who also heard the Apple-Samsung case — found Google's terms and conditions and privacy policy isn't clear to users. Koh subsequently allowed a class-action suit to proceed against the company (official ruling). The plaintiffs in the suit allege Google violates federal and state wiretap laws by scannning the messages sent by non-Gmail and Gmail users."

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Oh for crying out loud (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44969587)

Will this shit die already, this is getting tiring.

It is an automatic system.

I bet Microsoft is funding this, AGAIN.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (4, Interesting)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | 1 year,27 days | (#44969597)

By this logic, all mail virus scanners are also guilty.

Barracuda should be worries about that.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (4, Insightful)

Monoman (8745) | 1 year,27 days | (#44969665)

You beat me to it.

So I guess the question for everyone is should Google (and others) be allowed to scan communications if they state clearly in their EULA what they are doing and why? Does the answer change when the communications include a parties that didn't accept the EULA?

Re:Oh for crying out loud (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44969955)

You beat me to it.

So I guess the question for everyone is should Google (and others) be allowed to scan communications if they state clearly in their EULA what they are doing and why? Does the answer change when the communications include a parties that didn't accept the EULA?

"Scanning" can mean very different things. GMail scans and extract the meaning of the communication (as best it can and it is getting quite good) *and* then files this in the permanent marketing profile they have on you and which they continue to build on and reuse. So they are extracting, saving, using and building a database of meaningful content from your email and about you. Other forms of scanning is without actually extracting the content itself, and not storing it in a database on you. This is clearly not exactly the same.

You can still think this ruling against Google is silly, but we should be precise on distinctions like that.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44970417)

Yahoo has been doing this off-and-on for the past year. They will even embed ads of a competitor of the company that sent the newsletter based on key words. They finally updated their TOS in June this year but they were doing it well before then.

Source, I'm the man that ensures billions of email messages are being delivered every month.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970559)

They've got the meaning of "spam" down pretty well.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (3, Insightful)

AJH16 (940784) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970675)

You have to extract meaning to perform SPAM filtering. The irony is we may prevent targeted advertising on GMail and instead get blown away by SPAM everywhere.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (2)

EXTomar (78739) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970809)

To apply "Junk Mail Filtering" requires scanning the contents. Even doing the basic things like checking DKIM and SPF to just do basic validation requires reading and extracting data from the message and storing it for metrics/heuristics is an important thing all modern email systems do now. And this ignores even the fundamentals of delivering the message.

This is not black and white situation. Email systems need to read email messages to make the system work but they also need to read the email to do ads.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (3, Insightful)

newcastlejon (1483695) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970115)

So I guess the question for everyone is should Google (and others) be allowed to scan communications if they state clearly in their EULA what they are doing and why?

Debatable, depending on whether or not such a clause falls foul of laws on unfair contract terms.

Does the answer change when the communications include a parties that didn't accept the EULA?

Initially I would say yes, but on the other hand giving out your gmail address knowing that your mail will be scanned would shift the onus onto you in my opinion. In other words, if you want private contact between you and another party you shouldn't be using a service like gmail. Hell, I haven't read the gmail EULA and even I know that they effectively read my email; it's pretty much Google's business model.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (1)

c (8461) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970181)

I suppose Google could keep a whitelist of (non-gmail) senders for each address, and if anyone tries to send to that address without being in the list they'd send a "Click here to agree with our EULA. Otherwise your e-mail to *receiver* will be dropped."

Re:Oh for crying out loud (4, Informative)

dissy (172727) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970387)

So I guess the question for everyone is should Google (and others) be allowed to scan communications if they state clearly in their EULA what they are doing and why? Does the answer change when the communications include a parties that didn't accept the EULA?

Here is the very first email Google sent to me when I signed up for Gmail service. Bold is added by me.

Just due to the fact Google already does explain it clearly in their (obviously unread) EULA, as well as in their welcome email, and on more than one help/support page, I doubt explaining it yet another time would make any difference to these people.

----------

Gmail Team 6/25/04 to me

First off, welcome. And thanks for agreeing to help us test Gmail. By now you probably know the key ways in which Gmail differs from traditional webmail services. Searching instead of filing. A free gigabyte of storage. Messages displayed in context as conversations.

So what else is new?

Gmail has many other special features that will become apparent as you use your account. Youâ(TM)ll find answers to most of your questions in our searchable help section, which includes a Getting Started guide. You'll find information there on such topics as:

        How to use address auto-complete
        Setting up filters for incoming mail
        Using advanced search options

You may also have noticed some text ads or related links to the right of this message. They're placed there in the same way that ads are placed alongside Google search results and, through our AdSense program, on content pages across the web. The matching of ads to content in your Gmail messages is performed entirely by computers; never by people. Because the ads and links are matched to information that is of interest to you, we hope you'll find them relevant and useful.

You're one of the very first people to use Gmail. Your input will help determine how it evolves, so we encourage you to send your feedback, suggestions and questions to us. But mostly, we hope you'll enjoy experimenting with Google's approach to email.

Speedy Delivery,
The Gmail Team

Re:Oh for crying out loud (3, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970515)

So if I send you an email at blah@hggdfshjd.org and it forwards to your gmail account (that I don't even know you have), where is my knowledge and consent to the scanning and storing?

That's right, there isn't any.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (4, Informative)

Noughmad (1044096) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970601)

Let's say I send a letter to a friend, and he shows it to his wife. Where is my knowledge and consent? There isn't, but there should be an expectation that the recipient has the authority to show this letter to others. In GMail, the recipient has decided that he wants to show all his incoming mail to Google.

Virus scanning is a service (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44969671)

Virus scanning is a service a provider can deliver to its customers.

Scanning mails for the benefit of the provider for advertising is not beneficial to the customer.

Re:Virus scanning is a service (4, Insightful)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | 1 year,27 days | (#44969715)

Somehow I doubt "federal wiretapping laws" take into account how much the person being tapped does or does not enjoy the results.

Re:Virus scanning is a service (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44969817)

Somehow I *do* think it takes into account whether you actually look at the data, and use it for your own purposes, rather than just (conditionally) transmitting it, as a virus/spam scanner does.

Re:Virus scanning is a service (1)

MrLint (519792) | 1 year,27 days | (#44969909)

Citation?

Re:Virus scanning is a service (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44970217)

Simple precedent –telephone exchanges are not deemed to be wiretapping devices, despite scanning the content, and then conditionally forwarding it to a specific address.

Re:Virus scanning is a service (4, Insightful)

mjtaylor24601 (820998) | 1 year,27 days | (#44969829)

Virus scanning is a service a provider can deliver to its customers.

Scanning mails for the benefit of the provider for advertising is not beneficial to the customer.

...except in so far as it allows the service provider to make a profit thereby enabling the customer to get access to the service for free.

Re:Virus scanning is a service (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | 1 year,27 days | (#44969995)

It's beneficial to the customer, because it funds the free email service they are receiving.

If they don't like it, they can take their custom elsewhere. Where they will also still be sending and receiving plaintext email to a server that can read everything.

Email is an open protocol. The only way that you don't get your email read by things is to encrypt it.

Re:Virus scanning is a service (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44970049)

As I understand it, that's actually a key part of Judge Koh's ruling: The *sender* of the email doesn't know that their email will be scanned for profit, only the receiver. And it's the sender's communication that's being wiretapped.

The sender "can't take their custom elsewhere".

Re:Virus scanning is a service (1)

Ronin Developer (67677) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970275)

This is similar to many phone recording scenarios as well. In some states, only one party in the conversation needs to be aware a conversation is being record. In others, both parties must consent - that's why there is the "beep" you hear when a call is being recorded. The exception are wiretaps under warrant.

We kicked and screamed about our gov't collecting "meta-data". Yet, this is precisely what's happening by a corporate entitiy - they are extracting meta-data and acting upon it.

And, as someone else pointed out, this type of scanning is a lot different than scanning a message for viruses or malware. The only potential problem comes up when an email address is blacklisted based off one of these scans. At that point, it becomes akin to extracting meta-data as an action is taken against the sender without their consent.

Re:Virus scanning is a service (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970575)

Mmm, but email is still an open protocol, from the days when everyone was trustworthy on the internet.

It's the equivalent of handing a postcard to a guy wearing a postmasters hat on the street, and saying "hey, can you get this to John Smith of Omaha?".

You have no say over how that guy delivers the service (if he delivers it at all). That card will be handed on through a number of pairs of hands. Each guy in the chain might copy it, read it, snigger about your pet names for your girlfriend, etc.

Now, imagine you had the same system, but you can put your mail in an envelope that's actually an indestructible lockbox which absolutely magically can't be opened without the key. The lockboxes are basically free, but the recipient has to do a little preparation in order to be able to open them. It's actually a lot better than postal mail, because people can steam paper envelopes much easier.

The problem is how email is presented to people. It's fundamental nature is unacceptable to people with privacy concerns, and if they actually knew that before starting to use it, they'd be better off.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44969673)

There is a fundamental difference in blindly scanning something for known issues (i.e. malware) versus scanning something to generate a context and add to the profile of an individual.
  Imagine yourself at a security checkpoint, would you rather just send your stuff through an X-ray and be on your way? Or would you rather all your belongings be spread out, catalogued, and stored alongside your photo for future retrieval or that information fed to Target just because you happened to buy your toothbrush there?

Re:Oh for crying out loud (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44970231)

Without some kind of proof that Google is storing and/or sending off personally identifying information about you based on the ads displayed to you, your claim that they are is nothing but FUD.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44969687)

By this logic, all mail virus scanners are also guilty.

Do all mail virus scanners create marketing profiles of their users based on the files? I wouldn't exactly be surprised but I didn't think most did that.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44969697)

By this logic, all mail virus scanners are also guilty.

Barracuda should be worries about that.

There is a difference though. The virus scanner is not parsing and reporting the human readable document content.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44969713)

Unless something's changed, Barracuda is basically a spamassassin box. I guess spamassassin should be worried too? But then again, these things are user-run...

Re:Oh for crying out loud (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44969789)

By this logic, all mail virus scanners are also guilty.

Barracuda should be worries about that.

The GMail algorithm goes "hey, this guy is talking about being dissatisfied with his job lets promote som job services in the ad space" (yeah, if you think the Google context ads are just simpel keywords think again)

The Barracuda algorithm goes "6e 6f 72 6d 61 6c 20 63 6f 64 65... ok so far so good.. 76 69 72 75 73.. holy shit, stop that"

Re:Oh for crying out loud (1)

BitZtream (692029) | 1 year,27 days | (#44969911)

Barracuda has no worries for 99% of its customers. You have no expectation of privacy when using your employers computer or email system, most of their systems go here.

Google is a little different as a provider of emails to end users.

No they're not... (2)

mystikkman (1487801) | 1 year,27 days | (#44969975)

The judge mentions this in her ruling:

...generating user profiles or to provide targeted advertisements.

Spam filters and mail virus scanners don't do that.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (1)

currently_awake (1248758) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970335)

But what about the NSA scanning your email? Their general warrant from the FISA probably doesn't count as a wiretap warrant.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (1)

sjames (1099) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970443)

Not really, no. The virus scanner simply scans for a threat and if it finds it, the email goes poof or gets quarantined. The meaning of the message and any keywords are never scanned and certainly are never associated with any sort of identity.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44969633)

Ah so it is okay if it is only an automated drone doing the dirty deed :)

Re:Oh for crying out loud (1)

maroberts (15852) | 1 year,27 days | (#44969681)

Ah so it is okay if it is only an automated drone doing the dirty deed :)

Law in this area is a balancing act. If it is just for the purpose of serving relevant adverts to put before your eyeballs, on terms which you have accepted in using the service, then yes. If it is for tracking your movements and activity before hunting you down and killing you, then no (or at least not without a warrant)

Re:Oh for crying out loud (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | 1 year,27 days | (#44969807)

If it is just for the purpose of serving relevant adverts to put before your eyeballs, on terms which you have accepted in using the service, then yes. If it is for tracking your movements and activity before hunting you down and killing you, then no (or at least not without a warrant)

And why is building a privacy-invasive model of your mind in an attempt to control your thoughts and behavior so such more acceptable than physical violence?

I don't see any a priori reason why it's ok to invade someone's privacy and the privacy of their corespondents in order to make ads displayed to them more "relevant". Please explain your reasoning. (And no, the fact that it's more profitable to Google is not a justification.)

Re:Oh for crying out loud (2)

somersault (912633) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970019)

I don't see any a priori reason why it's ok to invade someone's privacy and the privacy of their corespondents in order to make ads displayed to them more "relevant"

It's okay to it, because they agreed to it to get a free service. If people would rather pay for an ad-free service, they are free to do so.

I'd rather see targeted ads, than random ads.

I don't actually see any ads at all, because I use an adblocker.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (2)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970379)

It's okay to it, because they agreed to it to get a free service.

First, the suit alleges that they did not so agree because the TOS are not clear, and furthermore that they can't agree on behalf of their correspondents. (TFA: ""Google has cited no case that stands for the proposition that users who send emails impliedly consent to interceptions and use of their communications by third parties other than the intended recipient of the email," Koh wrote.") Second, if Google is not permitted under wiretap law to eavesdrop, that supersedes any part of a user contract or agreement.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44970445)

Except that google does not offer a paid Ad Free service. Even the school accounts that are paid for by the School District/University has ads displayed.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (1)

inject_hotmail.com (843637) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970659)

The law says that contracts can't permit unlawful acts -- no matter what, under any circumstance...I'm not sure why we all accept this behaviour. That being said, and if this spying is now legal because a) it's not a human doing it, and b) it's "agreed upon" by two of the parties involved (ignoring third parties of course!), why not use computers/robots to everything corporations want to do but aren't permitted to do by law?

People have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their electronic communication. It's -called- "mail" for crying out loud...mail is one of the most protected forms of communication! The programmers who programmed the scanning engine, and all the way up the chain, should be charged with wiretapping. Just because they use a proxy to conduct their dirty work doesn't mean it's now magically legal.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (2)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970105)

Is isn't privacy. Email is an open protocol. You wouldn't send private communications on postcards, because the postman could read it. This is the same thing.

If you don't know this about email... well, it's as well that people learn.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (3, Insightful)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970313)

Is isn't privacy. Email is an open protocol.

The wiretap law apparently says otherwise, which is why this has come up.

Yes, as a practical matter, don't assume e-mail to be private. The question here, however, is legal, not practical/crypographic.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (1)

Jeff Flanagan (2981883) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970495)

I agree with you, but I think the Post Office would be in serious trouble if they used OCR to read all the post cards going through the system and tailor junk mail based on them, so this may be more complicated.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (3, Informative)

mystikkman (1487801) | 1 year,27 days | (#44969989)

... on terms which you have accepted in using the service

Please read the article. The judge specifically said that the "terms are service" are vague and don't indicate that user profiles are being built.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (5, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | 1 year,27 days | (#44969763)

I agree with you to some extent. An algorithm searching for keywords and displaying appropriate ads? I really don't have a problem with that. Where I do have an issue is where the information gleaned goes into a big database that Google has on me. A big database that can be subpoenaed, or leaked, or stolen. A database that slowly but surely includes information from nearly every act of communication and internet usage. Even if I were to opt out of Google's services, the fact is if I send an email it's likely going to a gmail address, if I browse the internet there are likely Google servers providing parts of the page.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (2)

SirGarlon (845873) | 1 year,27 days | (#44969883)

A big database that can be subpoenaed, or leaked, or stolen.

So it's only a problem if outsiders get access? You have a lot more faith in Google's present and future intentions than I do.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (1)

AHuxley (892839) | 1 year,27 days | (#44969765)

The NSA system is automatic too...
http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/newsrelease/gmail-judge-holds-internet-accountable-wiretap-laws-key-consumer-victory [consumerwatchdog.org]
Long term the US legal system seems to be returning to the "neither instrumental to the provision of email services, nor are they an incidental effect of providing these services" side.
Another aspect is the http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/01/supreme-court-holds-warrantless-gps-tracking-unconstitutional/ [arstechnica.com]
near the end under "Sotomayor attacks the third-party doctrine"
"ill-suited to the digital age, in which people reveal a great deal of information about themselves to third parties in the course of carrying out mundane tasks. People disclose the phone numbers that they dial or text to their cellular providers; the URLs that they visit and the e-mail addresses with which they correspond to their Internet service providers; and the books, groceries, and medications they purchase to online retailers."
The public wants their "persons, houses, papers, and effects" back ie to be protected from a gov in cahoots with a .com.

Re: Oh for crying out loud (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44969831)

Got it. Automated makes it ok. Thanks for clearing that up!

The NSA is an automated system. I guess I must fully support that, too.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44969849)

Who is worse Google or the Fed? Oh wait...they are one in the same.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (1)

nurb432 (527695) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970299)

And users agreed to it as part of the terms to get the service for free.

Re:Oh for crying out loud (1)

sjames (1099) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970465)

The NSA is an automated system too.

Would you be OK with it if the police scanned all of your emails with an automated system?

The only conclusion (1)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | 1 year,27 days | (#44969627)

The only conclusion I can draw from today's news is: terrorists don't read ads.

Re:The only conclusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44969843)

Ohmagerd! Ahma terrrrrist! [adblockplus.org]

So? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44969645)

The government isn't going to do anything to Google because Google is their biggest source of private citizen information.

If Google's recent resistance is more than just "theater" then maybe the NSA steps in and teaches Google how to scan all mail and not just Gmail.

Huge payday! (1)

bmxeroh (1694004) | 1 year,27 days | (#44969647)

I for one, am looking forward to my check for $0.23 as restitution for these atrocities. I still have a check for a dollar something on my fridge from the last class action I was apparently a part in. I think I'm just going to start collecting them.

Lucy Koh isn't the brightest judge on the planet (3, Insightful)

maroberts (15852) | 1 year,27 days | (#44969649)

...she was(is?) the ringmaster for the Apple Samsung patent battle.

Personally if I wanted a decent tech judgement I'd move heaven and earth to end up before Judge Alsup (Oracle v Android)

Re:Lucy Koh isn't the brightest judge on the plane (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44970001)

Goes against Google fan hivemind, must be an idiot womyn....

Re:Lucy Koh isn't the brightest judge on the plane (2)

frinsore (153020) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970245)

There are some pretty interesting points raised in the case that I think should be addressed. I'm on google's side, the service that google provides me is worth their database about my habits. That's my choice and I knew it going in, even Microsoft advertises that Google does this. But privacy policies, EULAs and such have become stupidly complex. An average user can't be expected to read those tedious documents and I doubt if more then 1% fully read any of the contracts they click to accept. FTFA: "that a reasonable Gmail user who read the Privacy Policies would not have necessarily understood that her emails...". I can see this as a way to require human readable EULAs and privacy policies instead of the pages and pages of legalese that currently exist.

There's also the question of who "owns" the data in an email. If someone sends me an email, do they still own it and am I restricted in how I handle that email according to their wishes? Should they be informed that I'm saving the email on a server or that I've printed out a copy or that I run it through a spam filter? Most engineers would agree that I can do whatever I want to the email as that copy of the data is mine to use as I wish but IP lawyers can argue that I don't have the intellectual property rights to use the data except by whatever rights the owner has granted me.

I'm really hoping that this case can be appealed and finally set some precedence to some of the crazy shenanigans.

Should be a law with huge fines (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44969669)

Should be a law to remind businesses that some things such as other's communication "is not their fucken business". And they shouldn't think they could create business by peeping into other's affairs ! Huge fines should be payable to each person that had their email scanned.

how about some consistency (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44969693)

a U.S. federal judge on Thursday rebuffed Google's defense of its targeted ad system that scans the content of Gmail

Meanwhile, the NSAs scanning of everyone's email can continue unabated. Nice how the law can be applied selectively...

Oh yeah, uh (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44969709)

no Google does not.
The goverment has already shown that wiretap laws are just for show and does not need to be followed.

Scroogled again! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44969711)

I'm sure you fanboys will spin it as a good thing, though, like the sheeple you are.

If Google can do it (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44969779)

then why can't the USPS open letters, scan them, then reseal and deliver them?

Re:If Google can do it (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970035)

Email is more like a postcard - no effort is made to hide it's contents.

The USPS *does* routinely scan both external surfaces of all letters and postcards to determine where to send them.

Re:If Google can do it (2)

Unknown74 (3041957) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970045)

too %%#&^# LAZY...can't even deliver the mail

Amazon Does this too (5, Interesting)

gishzida (591028) | 1 year,27 days | (#44969787)

Google isn't the only one that reads your mail.

If you have a Kindle Fire or Fire HD they are reading it too. I had the upsetting experience of reading an email on my Kindle Fire HD that announced my father's death and then not more than a few hours later was served a "recommendation" on my Kindle a book on how to write a Eulogy.

I deleted my email account information from the kindle and shut down the recommendation system on the device... and I told Amazon how creepy they were... At least Google hasn't served creepy ads like that... so far...

Maybe Amazon should learn from Google and adopt "Don't Be Creepy" as their motto. Are you listening, Mr. Bezos?

[By the way I tried at the time to put Amazon's actions up as a news story on Slashdot... but it was not picked up as a story...]

Re:Amazon Does this too (5, Funny)

Internal Modem (1281796) | 1 year,27 days | (#44969837)

You weren't published by Slashdot because you didn't have a blog that quoted another blog that linked to the original blog which had a link to a news aggregation site pointing to the original story.

Re:Amazon Does this too (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44970609)

Google isn't the only one that reads your mail.

If you have a Kindle Fire or Fire HD they are reading it too. I had the upsetting experience of reading an email on my Kindle Fire HD that announced my father's death and then not more than a few hours later was served a "recommendation" on my Kindle a book on how to write a Eulogy.

I deleted my email account information from the kindle and shut down the recommendation system on the device... and I told Amazon how creepy they were... At least Google hasn't served creepy ads like that... so far...

Maybe Amazon should learn from Google and adopt "Don't Be Creepy" as their motto. Are you listening, Mr. Bezos?

[By the way I tried at the time to put Amazon's actions up as a news story on Slashdot... but it was not picked up as a story...]

WTF are you talking about? Google NOT creepy?

"Umm, we 'accidentally' built this system into our google cars that snoops and records all WiFi traffic it 'accidentally' intercepts"

Re:Amazon Does this too (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970721)

Would it have been any less creepy if that was done without sending your data out to the cloud? What if your computer had real artificial intelligence, and could determine the meaning of your email, and do things for you based on what's actually going on in your life. Would it be creepy if it offered a book at that might help out in a certain situation, maybe with a list of places where you could buy it. I the computer could do all this without sending your personal correspondence out to the cloud, and instead provided a selection of books, available at a selection of retailers, so that it obviously wasn't trying to push a specific book or store, would the interaction be any more welcome?

The REAL news of the day... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44969801)

Woah! We have federal wiretapping laws????

Re:The REAL news of the day... (3, Insightful)

fustakrakich (1673220) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970031)

Yes, you and I are not allowed to listen in and record the feds.

I wish (3, Insightful)

no-body (127863) | 1 year,27 days | (#44969821)

The same scrutiny would get applied to NSA's escapades but they get a free ride on everything.

Re:I wish (1)

synapse7 (1075571) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970793)

I figured the acceptance of the NSA scanning mail would be applied to google, and others.

Terms of Service are never clear on these things. (1)

intermodal (534361) | 1 year,27 days | (#44969835)

If the clarity of terms of service is a yardstick for measuring the legality of the terms, then I can't help but wonder what percentage of ToS and EULAs are completely invalid by the same token.

Re:Terms of Service are never clear on these thing (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | 1 year,27 days | (#44969887)

"Clear" in this probably means not ambiguous. Open for only one interpretation. Readable is not what they mean.
In fact those often contradict each other. If all alternate interpretations are ruled out then wording usually gets a bit complicated.

Re:Terms of Service are never clear on these thing (1)

intermodal (534361) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970063)

Which is different from ToS and EULAs how?

Re:Terms of Service are never clear on these thing (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970531)

You may have a point. I am not a masochist so I don't read ToS's and Eula's, thus I don't know. They may very well be ambiguous. And in some cases that would probably make them invalid. I am not a lawyer so I can't say for sure.

Whatever happened to. . . (0)

Salgak1 (20136) | 1 year,27 days | (#44969949)

. . . "don't be evil" ???

Re:Whatever happened to. . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44970023)

It was always a cutsey soundbyte that only clueless fanboys would believe.

Google's a fucking business.

A class action? Eek! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44969987)

A class action lawsuit? Oh my god, Google must be literally quaking in their boots!

In a few years time, they'll have to settle and give everyone affected a $5 credit voucher off your next Adwords purchase (minimum spend $50). And the lawyers involved tens of millions of cold hard cash, naturally.

Informed consent? Really? (5, Interesting)

satch89450 (186046) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970007)

"But people who send e-mail imply consent..."

I'm a long-time Google Apps user, and my company's domain is on all mail receipents' mail, not "gmail.com". So how can you have implied consent when the sender doesn't know that the mail is being sent through Google?

Re:Informed consent? Really? (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970693)

I'm a long-time Google Apps user, and my company's domain is on all mail receipents' mail, not "gmail.com". So how can you have implied consent when the sender doesn't know that the mail is being sent through Google?

In this case, the user of Google Apps has volunteered to submit all mail that he's received from all of his correspondents for scanning by Google. That's part of the bargain for Google's rock-bottom pricing. I would think that third-party disclosure parameters would apply to the recipient domain's owners since they can choose to host their e-mail anywhere.

Laws? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44970101)

Laws? They're for the little people.

I think the $18 Million that Google spent on lobbying in 2012 will help the court see sense.

How could Google have been any MORE clear? (4, Informative)

sirwired (27582) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970123)

Google has been 100% up-front, since the day they announced the product, that they were going to pay for GMail by scanning your mail messages and guessing at relevant ads. They have made utterly no effort whatsoever to hide or obfuscate this fact.

Re:How could Google have been any MORE clear? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44970239)

Google has been 100% up-front, since the day they announced the product, that they were going to pay for GMail by scanning your mail messages and guessing at relevant ads. They have made utterly no effort whatsoever to hide or obfuscate this fact.

But when I send email to GMail recipients (who doesn't even have to be on a @gmail.com domain) I haven't signed up for this.

Re:How could Google have been any MORE clear? (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970303)

You get a prize. I'm astonished no one else pointed this out yet.

I've been a GMail user since the beta, and it was obvious then. It was even made obvious in the press releases.

Moreover, the real WTF here is that people use email with any expectation of privacy at all. The "envelope" icon used by most email programs is a giant lie.

If the postal service is mail in envelopes delivered by mostly trustworthy postmen, then email is postcards delivered by random junkies, some of whom are NSA agents and other similar nefarious types in disguise.

It's an open protocol. You send mail to the server, as plaintext, and it's then forwarded through a bunch of other servers, as plaintext, until it gets to it's recipient. This has always been the case. The only thing that's changed in modern times is the chain of servers has gotten a little shorter in most cases.

If you want privacy, invest in envelopes - or for email, encryption.

Re:How could Google have been any MORE clear? (2)

Bucc5062 (856482) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970655)

What you state has merit, but what stops a postman from opening a letter, reading it, and perhaps acting upon the contents. Sure the envelope provides a modicum of protect from casual reading, but it does not take much for a person to use a letter opener on someone else's mail. What stops them (for the most part) is that mail is protected under the Constition, under the law and as such can bring legal trouble to said letter opener.

As a computer or tech person, you may see an email as "open" like a postcard, but most of the population that uses email does not see it that way. They type a letter, hit send, and the binary is routed through the "internet" to the recipient. That it may pass through servers, routers, program analyzers is not in the mind set of the sender; just like they really don't know how many hands touch that envelope.

I am a software developer, I do understand that my email can be "read" in route, but what bothers me is that that email is not accorded the same protections as my hand delivered envelope, Some reads my letter by steaming open the envelope, bad; someone reading my email because they can catch it in route; okay. That is not how it should be. If someone reads my email (without my permission) they should be held to the same level of privacy invasion as one who reads my snail mail. If I give gmail permission to scan my mail so be it, but that does not mean I abdicate my privacy for anyone else to read it. At least that is how email should be viewed today.

Federal wiretapping laws (2)

Highland Deck Box (2786087) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970161)

Right cos those were soooooo effective at stopping anyone like the NSA tapping every wire ever. Or is this one of these things where it's ok if a government organisation does it, like how the US army can't commit terrorism because they are the "good guys"?

Re:Federal wiretapping laws (4, Insightful)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970365)

NSA doesn't tap wires. They tap fibre.

So who did Google piss off? (0)

nurb432 (527695) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970265)

This is typical anti-company behavior by the federal government.

Regardless of the discussion if they are right or wrong, Google was not bothered in the past, so apparently they pissed someone off at the federal level and now they are out to shut them down. ( and i'm sure extort them on the ride ).

I bet they were asked to do something way out of line and declined and now will pay the price with complete shut down. But that is just theory.

Re:So who did Google piss off? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44970523)

I bet they were asked to do something way out of line and declined and now will pay the price with complete shut down. But that is just theory.

Knowing Google, they were asked to stop keeping records on government employees (or maybe even just certain politicians) and responded that they don't have a way to exempt anyone from their data-mining.

Re:So who did Google piss off? (2)

PPH (736903) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970649)

Probably the NSA. Not directly, but this is the push back to all of the bad press they have been getting since the Snowden leaks. Hold Google and other service providers feet to the fire and they'll go to Congress begging to have the laws relaxed.

Oh, and once you've got your relaxed laws, Google, you'll be happy to share [slashdot.org] all that scraped data with us, right?

What about spam filtering? (4, Insightful)

NoNeeeed (157503) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970301)

If the court decides that mail providers cannot, on principle, be allowed to scan the content of a mail message then I don't see why it wouldn't affect content based spam filtering.

This case could have interesting ramifications for all mail providers if the court decides this violates wire-tap laws.

No, no it doesn't. (3, Insightful)

bmo (77928) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970383)

>The plaintiffs in the suit allege Google violates federal and state wiretap laws by scannning the messages sent by non-Gmail and Gmail users."

The ECPA says that email is different and that only watching the live transmission outside the normal checking of function of the email system by a person when not otherwise disclaimed by the privacy policy is the equivalent of a wiretap.

That's because email is a store and forward communication, not the equivalent of a phone call.

When the ECPA was written, it had to be written in a way that prevented turning all operators into felons when they weren't deliberately spying on their users. This is the "hole" (it's not really) that Google is using to justify the machine reading of email, if it's spelled out.

I have read the Gmail privacy statement. To me it covers their ass in this regard. The Gmail privacy statement applies just as much to incoming mail as it does to outgoing. But even if it doesn't, when you send email, unless it's encrypted, it's the equivalent of a postcard. Are we going to be throwing meatspace postal workers into jail when they read the text next to the address on a postcard? That would be insane and unrealistic expectation of privacy, wouldn't it? That's not just my opinion, it's the opinion of everyone who knows anything about email. It's not a new concept, either. It's been expressed in books like my copy of the first edition of "Navigating The Internet" where the author introduced this "new thing" called the "web."

Calling this wiretapping and removing the safe-harbor sets a dangerous precedent and will turn all operators into felons.

While there is the desire to have complete privacy when it comes to email, unencrypted transmission and text negate any realistic expectation of privacy. Privacy starts with the user and ends with the user. If you don't want people reading your stuff (besides the fuckin' NSA spit), take measures to keep them from reading it. Instead of sending plain text on the postcard, encrypt the text with your (figurative) Ovaltine Decoder Ring and get your friends to use their decoder rings.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdA__2tKoIU [youtube.com]

There is a crying need for transparent encryption methods in communication software, and it boggles my mind that this hasn't happened yet.

--
BMO - Drink more Ovaltine.

Google Apologists (0, Offtopic)

tapspace (2368622) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970427)

ITT: People who love google more than privacy.

Google really never is evil. They are so powerful, they just redefine evil as necessary, and everyone eats it up.

What about scanning email to... (1)

dmomo (256005) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970461)

...turn it into ascii chars to send over https to your browser? Then, all email providers are guilty.

Yawn (1)

Diddlbiker (1022703) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970633)

I thought it was made pretty clear over the last few months that federal wiretap laws are worth less than used toiletpaper, so why is this a big deal?

hypocritical (1)

YoungManKlaus (2773165) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970739)

considering the current NSA scandal...

Selective scanning (1)

clickety6 (141178) | 1 year,27 days | (#44970767)

If Google restricted their scanning to just emails that have been sent from the acocunt then they would be scanning only emails thast the user has given their consent to have scanned.

Feed that data to the NSA... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44970791)

...and I bet they'd change their mind real fast, kissing Google's ass overnight.

Speaking of which, why is there no requirement to be clear and upfront in these same terms of service about handing over data to the NSA? This government is pure fucking hypocrisy. Government can get away with anything; hell, companies can get away with anything as long as the government is benefiting from it; yet, if a company does something that is for their own gain using the same questionable moral ideas then the government sees a reason to let a lawsuit proceed.

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