Google privacy issues at center of legal debate

WASHINGTON – Google is under fire as it defends itself in a class-action suit that accuses the Internet giant of violating wiretap laws.

The suit contends that Google violates wiretap laws by scanning emails to determine which ads you see. But Google says email users shouldn’t be surprised that messages are scanned as part of its service.

Consumer Watchdog interpreted the wording of Google’s motion to dismiss the suit to mean that Gmail users cannot expect emails sent to them to stay private.

According to PC Magazine, the legal brief discusses non-Gmail users who send messages to Gmail users. Those non-Gmail users should expect that Google technology would handle their emails when they are sent to Gmail accounts, the brief contends.

Google, in seeking the dismissal, says the following:

“Moreover, multiple courts have held that all email senders impliedly consent to the processing of their emails by virtue of the fact that email cannot be sent or delivered without some form of electronic processing. This combination of express and implied consent bars Plaintiffs’ claims in their entirety, under both the federal and state wiretap statutes.”

In making its argument that people who do not have Gmail accounts have no expectation of privacy, Google cites a 1979 case, Smith v. Maryland, which says that a person has “no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.”

In 2011, Google settled another issue of privacy with the Federal Trade Commission, which accused the company of using “deceptive” privacy practices, according to The Huffington Post.

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