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  (Source: opensourceway/Flickr)
Consumer watchdog groups call admission "stunning"

While Google Inc. (GOOG) insists its actions are perfectly legal, what the world's top internet firm is doing with your email may come as a shocking surprise for some.

I. Google is Reading Your Mail (Sort of)

Google in a court filing this week wrote:

All users of email must necessarily expect that their emails will be subject to automated processing.

Just as a sender of a letter to a business colleague cannot be surprised that the recipient’s assistant opens the letter, people who use web-based email today cannot be surprised if their emails are processed by the recipient’s [email provider] in the course of delivery. Indeed, ‘a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.

So what does Google mean by "automated processing" and "opening"?  Well it turns out that if someone from a different service emails one of Gmail's 425 million users, Google opens that message and scans it looking for keywords -- even when the message is a non-Gmail user and has not agreed to Google's legal terms.  It then uses those keywords to target advertisements at you and your contacts.

Google Motion to Dismiss 061313 by steven_musil

Google insists it does nothing wrong.  By its reckoning, Gmail users have already signed its terms of service (ToS) which gives it the permission to scan their traffic in order to target ads at them.  

Google says once you sign its ToS, it has the right to parse your email. [Image Source: CNN]

As for those who haven't signed the ToS -- non-Gmail users sending a message to a Gmail account -- Google cites a highly controversial 1979 Supreme Court ruling -- Smith v. Maryland -- which said that citizens lose their "right" to privacy whenever they hand personal documents off to a third party.  Former CEO and current executive chairman Eric Schmidt comments, "Google policy is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it."

II. Is Google a "Secretary" or a "Post Office"?

But some see the admission in a far different way.  John Simpson, head of the privacy project at Consumer Watchdog, comments to The Guardian:

Google’s brief uses a wrong-headed analogy; sending an email is like giving a letter to the Post Office. I expect the Post Office to deliver the letter based on the address written on the envelope. I don’t expect the mail carrier to open my letter and read it.

Similarly, when I send an email, I expect it to be delivered to the intended recipient with a Gmail account based on the email address; why would I expect its content will be intercepted by Google and read?

Google has finally admitted they don't respect privacy.  People should take them at their word; if you care about your email correspondents' privacy, don't use Gmail.

A Google spokesperson takes issue with that opinion, arguing:

We take our users' privacy and security very seriously; recent reports claiming otherwise are simply untrue.  We have built industry-leading security and privacy features into Gmail — and no matter who sends an email to a Gmail user, those protections apply.

Google sees itself as your secretary, not your post office. [Image Source: WiseGeek]

The filing comes courtesy of a class action lawsuit against Google filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, with a familiar face -- Judge Lucy Koh -- presiding.  The suit was filed on April 9, 2013 and the potential class is being represented by Mike Slocumb, a top Maryland personal injury lawyers.  In the lawsuit filing Mr. Slocumb writes:

Unbeknown to millions of people, on a daily basis and for years, Google has systematically and intentionally crossed the 'creepy line' to read private email messages containing information you don't want anyone to know, and to acquire, collect, or mine valuable information from that mail.

The suit specifically accuses Google of malicious business practices and of breaking the law by violating Californian state wiretapping laws (Cal. Penal Code § 632) that require both parties to consent to the recording of a conversation.  Google calls these claims ridiculous and has attacked the suit's premise arguing that it is "an attempt to criminalize ordinary business practices."

III. Concerns Regarding NSA Spying Grow

The case was filed well before the recent leaks from former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) administrator Edward Snowden.  Mr. Snowden revealed that the government reads a great deal of email of U.S. citizens without warrant.  Google has publicly appeared to fight government data grabs, however some fear it may be turning over its emails quietly behind close doors.

Reportedly the U.S. federal government has also approached Google demanding it give an encryption "master key" for rapid decryption of Gmail's encrypted message packets.  Such a key would allow organizations like the NSA to intercept and decrypt your email at a network level, without ever actually having to send a data request to Google itself.

NSA email
Leaked NSA slides show the U.S. gov't is keen on gaining access to private Gmail messages.
[Image Source: The Guardian]

It is unclear exactly how much email is read a day, but the NSA admits to reviewing ~77,000 gigabytes of data daily on a daily basis, after filtering through 1.6 percent of the world's web traffic daily.  That's the equivalent of 7.7 billion emails, 2.5 million hours of 128 kbps mp3 audio, or 18,000 hours of 720p video [source: 123].

Google's court filing offered little insight regarding possible government data grabs, though.  This is not necessarily surprising as it is illegal to talk publicly about these U.S. government programs or share information about them with U.S. citizens.

Other organizations -- such as the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have also admitted to reading citizens' email, while trying to argue that their behavior is justified and legal.

Sources: Google via Scribd, The Guardian

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Should be interesting
By NellyFromMA on 8/15/2013 3:48:21 PM , Rating: 5
I'd be real curious to hear what the thoughts are here about this.

Personally, I think its asinine if anyone thinks it isn't appropriate for consumers to have an expectation for the respect to their privacy, especially for personal e-mail.

Just because someone could intercept your snail mail and read it before you do doesn't negate the illegality of such an action.

The example that Google uses to justify its actions are frankly pathetic IMO.

RE: Should be interesting
By Reclaimer77 on 8/15/13, Rating: 0
RE: Should be interesting
By Labotomizer on 8/15/2013 4:06:41 PM , Rating: 4
I think the biggest issue is that most people aren't aware of what they're giving up. And the fact that outside users sending to a GMail account have their mail scanned and profiles created based around what they've emailed people at Google. So if you hit a site where you've logged in with your email address, and that address is stored in a cookie, Google AdWords can serve you ads based on an email message you sent to a GMail user, despite never using Gmail yourself. There are privacy concerns there.

And if you're the outside user your only option is to not email that person. That's like saying "Oh, that guy lives in Alabama and the post office there reads the mail you send there. So I guess I can't mail that guy in Alabama." I think that's the only part I truly have a problem with.

RE: Should be interesting
By sprockkets on 8/15/13, Rating: -1
RE: Should be interesting
By Labotomizer on 8/15/2013 4:35:21 PM , Rating: 3
So you're telling me you don't think Google doesn't create advertising profiles for a user with an email address based on what was sent to Gmail users? They absolutely do. They do the same thing based off IP address correlated to search terms.

Also, AdSense may be on a site where you use your email address to login. They would have access to that cookie to serve you up advertisements. On some sites I use my work address, on others I use my Gmail address. And they have different advertising profiles.

RE: Should be interesting
By sprockkets on 8/15/13, Rating: 0
RE: Should be interesting
By Motoman on 8/15/2013 5:19:59 PM , Rating: 3
AdSense gets information from multiple sources about what ads to show you.

I know this for a few reasons...first, I'm an AdSense customer, using it on one of my bigger sites. So I see tiny little bits of the backend. Secondly, because of that I don't block AdSense in my browser because I kind of like to see what it looks like on my site.

On top of that...I don't use Gmail - or any other Google services, other than the occasional search (or compound search through WebCrawler). In fact, other than my corporate Exchange account, I only use email accounts on my own email server - I don't use Yahoo, Hotmail, or any of the other webmail things.

Having said all that, AdSense knows *immediately* about websites I've gone to on my own, without having searched for them. It knows what I was browsing for on Amazon - whether or not I bought anything. Same for Newegg. And of course it knows what searches I've done.

AdSense would of course almost certainly leverage your Gmail information...but it's not *only* going to use that. It uses *everything else* just fine.

RE: Should be interesting
By KITH on 8/15/2013 5:58:14 PM , Rating: 2
Using Chrome?

RE: Should be interesting
By Motoman on 8/16/2013 12:01:24 PM , Rating: 2
No, Opera.

And not "upgrading" to their Chrome clone either, which is a travesty. Opera spends decades inventing every new feature that every other browser copies (literally), and then just gives up and switches to Chrome?


RE: Should be interesting
By NellyFromMA on 8/16/2013 9:38:07 AM , Rating: 2
True story. Thanks for sharing.

RE: Should be interesting
By artemicion on 8/15/13, Rating: 0
RE: Should be interesting
By troysavary on 8/15/2013 9:50:13 PM , Rating: 4
Of course no one can say anything negative about your precious Google. You don't care about the lack of privacy when it is Google, but when it is Microsoft you say:
Hell every goddamn day it seems Microsoft is making some statement, changing some plan, about the new Xbox. If they did change the Kinect requirement too, I guess I just forgot. My bad I guess.

Maybe people having real concerns about privacy had something to do with that change? Just a bit?

So one company makes a device that has a camera, but does NOT transmit over the net, so is not spying, is a privacy concern, but another company, who is reading people's private communications, is not a privacy concern? Biased much?

RE: Should be interesting
By Reclaimer77 on 8/15/13, Rating: -1
RE: Should be interesting
By themaster08 on 8/16/2013 1:50:44 AM , Rating: 3
Except you light heartedly justify Google's actions by saying "Well Google are just going what they have to do. Users can simply not use the service", but when it comes to Microsoft your view appears to slate them.

So, with your logic, if Microsoft uses Kinect to allow the NSA to spy on you, that's fine, they're just doing what they are bound to. Users can simply unplug their Xbox at the wall socket after use, or buy a PS4.

Your bias and fanboyism are clearer than crystal. If this was Microsoft with, you would be slating them yet again, and don't for a second try to deny it. Stop trying to justify it.

RE: Should be interesting
By blue_urban_sky on 8/16/2013 3:05:56 AM , Rating: 2
Free vs Paid

RE: Should be interesting
By themaster08 on 8/16/2013 3:20:14 AM , Rating: 2 is free. What's your point?

RE: Should be interesting
By Reclaimer77 on 8/16/2013 9:46:18 AM , Rating: 1
No, not the same. Not at all. And this is getting silly as hell.

If this was Microsoft with, you would be slating them yet again, and don't for a second try to deny it.

Well no that's a blatant lie. I sat here yesterday and said EVERY free email service does this on some level. That includes and Microsoft.

So, with your logic, if Microsoft uses Kinect to allow the NSA to spy on you, that's fine,

My logic says this is fine? Really!?

If you don't think there's a huge difference between sniffing emails for ad revenue generating keywords, and trying to stick a spycam in my living room, then you're hopeless.

RE: Should be interesting
By themaster08 on 8/16/2013 9:52:26 AM , Rating: 2
Except the difference being is that one of these scenarios is factual, whereas the other has been made moot by the fact that Microsoft allows the Xbox One to be used without the Kinect sensor plugged in.

RE: Should be interesting
By Reclaimer77 on 8/16/2013 11:03:17 AM , Rating: 3
Again, we're talking about Microsoft's original plan. They've changed that because there was a virtual uproar over their idea of an always on, always monitoring, Kinect. Which was REQUIRED, not optional.

The only possible way that would be "the same" as Google is if they required access to your webcam to use Gmail. Or better yet, a special GoogleCam watching and listening to you at all times.

I don't know what your problem with me is, or why we're discussing this. Trying to twist two dissimilar issues into being "the same" so you can troll someone is fun I guess.

Maybe fundamentally it's the "same" in some ways. But there's just something REALLY uncomfortable and creepy about Microsoft's original plan for the Xbox and Kinect. Having physical equipment, in your own home, that could violate your privacy. Obviously I'm not the only one who feels that way.

Now this is all I have to say about this. Don't know what more you want from me.

RE: Should be interesting
By Aloonatic on 8/16/2013 3:33:54 AM , Rating: 4
Is this really new s?

I thought that this was pretty widely known.

There was a good program on the BBC about this a few years ago now about the "cost of free".

RE: Should be interesting
By NellyFromMA on 8/16/2013 9:36:48 AM , Rating: 3
Considering the fact that I'm a project manager for a cloud and on-premises software / web development company, I think I have a great handle on the costs needed to provide a data-driven service, including costs on intricacies with infrastructure.

I simply don't think Google's model is in consumers best interests at all and frankly, I think they exploit people's ignorance or gravitation towards convenience. I think if people actually have the conversation as a whole and end up deciding to give up their personal information for convenience then so be it, but frankly, it looks like the more this information comes out, the more creepy people feel.

That Google says 'We get right up to the creepy line but don't cross it' is disgusting IMO. My opinion isn't based on ignorance. But, I'm not going to claim my opinion is a fact either.

RE: Should be interesting
By half_duplex on 8/16/2013 10:23:45 AM , Rating: 2
You'd lose the wager, your logic is far too simplistic. A free email account on a beneficial level is more equivalent to a water fountain than a lunch, and the 'price' they are charging for that water is closer to a colonoscopy.

People understand that there are costs associated with non subscription services like GMail, but before now, the idea of Google scanning the actual content of the mail, essentially eavesdropping, wasn't really a conceivable cost.
American people expect their mail to private, regardless if it's electronic.

And to add even more depth to this, what if I email a GMail user from my .edu account? What about the need for a GMail account to use an Android phone?

RE: Should be interesting
By darckhart on 8/17/2013 1:22:35 AM , Rating: 3
This is the cost. Google is doing what they have to do,

Sorry, no. That's not what they *have* to do. It's what they choose to do based on their business model.

The end user can simply decide to not use the service.

Users that choose not to use gmail service, but email to gmail addresses are having their emails "read" as well. Oh I guess they just shouldn't email any gmail addresses. Same stupid argument like I guess if they don't like getting TSA treatment they just shouldn't fly.

The alternative is having the Government and courts effectively make services like Gmail, which thrive on ad revenue, illegal or unsustainable.

Sorry, no that's not the only alternative like you make it sound. Google is free to "thrive on ad revenue." They just shouldn't throw user's privacy out the window to do it. IF they want to interpret rulings the way they do, then I'm glad there are others that don't interpret it the same way and are willing to take them to court over it.

RE: Should be interesting
By TSS on 8/16/2013 3:54:57 AM , Rating: 2
For me, having grown up on the internet it's pretty simple - Don't put anything on the internet you don't want others to know about.

This includes email. I personally have a hotmail adress and i've used it since ~2000. I know damn well everything in there is being scanned and passed on by microsoft so i make sure there's nothing of value in there. Does it show my steam purchases? Yes but none of the valueble info such as login/payment details. It just shows what i've bought, which a simple search for my profile on steam will also show you - something i keep in mind and have no problem with sharing with the world (if the government wants to know i'm sure they'll just check my bank account).

If there's anything i want to share with people i tell them directly. Either in real life or chat programs via voice. I don't even trust skype text for the important parts, just the voice as alot more trouble has to be gone through to scan the entire voice conversation then to scan text for keywords. It can be done, sure - but i understand i'm too much of a uninteresting target to go through that lenght of trouble.

The only dangerous thing my emails can be used for is resetting passwords on other services, which is not why any of these companies read your emails, as well as those activation links only being active for a very short time - obviously because i use them myself right away. It would also require actual access to the email to make use of, not some automated script. Thankfully, computers are still dumb as bricks - unless you tell them to do something specifically they won't do it at all.

If you want real security, don't use email. Don't use the internet. It's as simple as that. As the recent shutdown of lavabits has shown - if the government really wants to they will either get your info or make it impossible for you to get to it as well.

But honestly, i consider this to be Personal Responsibility. I'm responsible for protecting the information i want protected against everybody. So i'm fine with others trying to get my info. Life isn't disney bullshit, if somebody can abuse my info they will. It's my job to make sure they don't succeed. Not the governments, not googles, not my parents. MY Responsibility.

RE: Should be interesting
By NellyFromMA on 8/16/2013 9:46:54 AM , Rating: 2
No doubt, you have to protect yourself and can't expect anyone to do so for you.

I just think that's a result of how insecure the internet really is.

I guess it boils down to two things for me:

1) I think it's sad that because of the above stated reality on the state of the internet in your post (which I agree 100% with) essentially means Google is ok being one of the worst exploiters of this reality.


2) I think people just need to continue to be educated on the matter. They can decide for themselves what to do and I don't look down on people who are ok sacrificing their privacy and in a sense, their freedom. I just think the conversation is really worthwhile and personally, I just continue to feel uncomfortable with all that Google gets away with.

It is arguably unreasonable to just stop using Google services and still be a relevant person in this day and age. Maybe that is a naïve statement, but just look at the percentage of internet usage goes through Google. They are affecting infrastructure decisions at this point, that's how huge they are as an internet entity. It is feeling a bit analgous to the MS Monopoly days but contextually in our present times. If people are starting to be creeped out in large enough numbers, we should consider the implications on these things in our society.

Or, maybe I'm just getting old. hah

RE: Should be interesting
By Aloonatic on 8/16/2013 3:39:35 PM , Rating: 2
I think you're pretty close to what the issue is here.

Old people (by which I mean anyone over 30, maybe 35) still think of the old world, and when they think of mail they think of it being protected by the state and an offence for anyone else to open it and read it, among other long standing "old world" protections that still exist today.

I am nost sure what is sadder. That people still operate under the delusion that those same rules apply to the virtual world, or the way that a generation are growing up thinking that it is fine for governments to hoover up everything about their lives (because of the terror and the kidy fiddlers of course, no government, ruling class has ever wanted to do this sort of thing ever before for any other reason) and that they are happy for corporations to monetise people's lives and let them sleep walk into this as long as they get a share.

It's not a simple thing to answer though, as the internet offers so much danger as well as benefit, and new rules need to apply but ti seems that so many people are happy to say "I know better than to share whatever", but the thing is, unless everyone that you know is the same or you live in a cave, in the end, they will share enough about you for your actions to be moot.

RE: Should be interesting
By nafhan on 8/16/2013 3:27:18 PM , Rating: 2
OK. Go for it, please explain how this isn't respecting consumer privacy (regarding email indexing and displaying ads).

By sprockkets on 8/15/13, Rating: 0
RE: fyi
By sprockkets on 8/15/2013 4:13:19 PM , Rating: 2
Oh and if you don't use encryption, *anybody* can intercept your email and read it. It would be as if you send postcards, not letters sealed in an envelope.

RE: fyi
By ninjaquick on 8/19/2013 9:33:40 PM , Rating: 2
Emails are tantamount to postcards, when packaged in a 2D form. Add a third dimension, attachments, and it becomes a whole new thing. IF google were to process attachments then it would be much more serious. However, as it stands: Gmail only 'reads' emails in the loosest of ways possible. While being processed, google just triggers ad-events to show the ads in the gmail app. Beyond that, Google does nothing.

RE: fyi
By nikon133 on 8/15/2013 5:16:05 PM , Rating: 3
I can tell my (currently imaginary) secretary not to open my mail - just to leave it on my desk.

And to bring me coffee and croissant every morning.

And she is so hot... being imaginary and all that.

Good luck getting all that from Gmail. ;)

RE: fyi
By bug77 on 8/15/2013 5:34:42 PM , Rating: 2
Well, if you'd pay Google the way you'd be paying your secretary, I'm sure they'd oblige.

RE: fyi
By nikon133 on 8/15/2013 6:31:23 PM , Rating: 2
Well now... depending on part of the world I'm living, I'd be paying her between a few hundreds to a few grands a month.

I am doubtful Google would stop reading my mail, keep bringing me coffee and croissant every morning, and be looking hot in business-smart short skirt, for that money. Even in best-case scenario.

RE: fyi
By InsGadget on 8/16/2013 6:09:09 AM , Rating: 2
I pay my Bs with Ds.

RE: fyi
By NellyFromMA on 8/16/2013 9:50:23 AM , Rating: 2
That implies that only secretaries are in the middle of the senders and recipient. It's a cherry picked analogy and totally wrong. Google is not your secretary. Google is your Post Office, who does not open your mail and read it, and legally cannot. Unless, it suspects there is a threat in their. That is the issue.

By Da W on 8/15/13, Rating: 0
RE: Liberty
By Reclaimer77 on 8/15/2013 4:01:23 PM , Rating: 5
I think old Ben would slap you if he heard you quoting that over this. The man was talking about tyranny, the oppression of Government, and the dissolution of the Republic.

NOT some optional, user-selected, entertainment service that anyone can opt-out of!!

Seriously can we please stop misusing that quote?

RE: Liberty
By amanojaku on 8/15/2013 4:11:02 PM , Rating: 2
But it's such an easy 5!

RE: Liberty
By Labotomizer on 8/15/2013 4:16:17 PM , Rating: 2
This is 'Merica! If lots of people are doing it then I HAVE to do it. And it's not my fault that I don't pay attention to what I'm giving up for it. That's the government's job! Or the TVs! Or the Interwebs! Certainly not mine.

RE: Liberty
By JCheng on 8/15/2013 8:33:26 PM , Rating: 2
"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety"

RE: Liberty
By Just Tom on 8/16/2013 8:11:53 AM , Rating: 2
Thank you. I hate how often people misquote old Ben.

Gmail is the greatest source of spam on the planet
By Motoman on 8/15/13, Rating: 0
By Reclaimer77 on 8/15/2013 5:53:04 PM , Rating: 2
Since you're a self confessed Adsense customer, this post doesn't carry a whole lot of weight.

You seem to be just fine with how Google does things, as long as you're getting paid for helping disseminate their "spam" to others.

I think it would be nice if Gmail would try, just a little bit, to keep their own house under control. Right now if I just blocked on my mail server, forums, etc. I'd probably block about 80% of all the BS that ever happens.

Is that because of Google, or just because a disproportionately large number of people use Gmail over other services?

Honest question, just curious.

By ritualm on 8/15/2013 6:45:55 PM , Rating: 2
Oh really?

The staggering majority of the spam that comes to my Yahoo account (by the way, not directly, but my ISP uses Yahoo webmail for its customers' email accounts) over the past 12 months involve WordPress, SEO, Facebook (which I never used!) and phishing. Before that, I was constantly deluged with all sorts of fake "this message is undeliverable" bounced spam.

None of the above involved GMail.

By Motoman on 8/16/2013 2:23:48 PM , Rating: 2
I'd wager that they *all* involved Gmail. As in, that's the email address that the message originated from.

Aside from that, the point I'm making isn't necessarily about the spam that makes it to your inbox either - I'm talking about reviewing the server logs.

My mail server tosses ~90% of all email as spam before it gets relayed to users. Even then, the *vast* majority of that is actually spam, but erring on the side of caution I don't crank my filters all the way to 11. And of all that spam, caught and un-caught, the *vast* majority of it is coming from Gmail email accounts.

Even if they're pretending to be Facebook, WordPress, or whatever else.

By GodMadeDirt on 8/15/2013 8:33:00 PM , Rating: 2
The Internet creates a lot of "tough guys". Funny I haven't been called a "retard" to my face since middle school. Wonder why that is?

By Skywalker123 on 8/17/2013 3:34:36 PM , Rating: 2
Funny I haven't been called a "retard" to my face since middle school. Wonder why that is?

cause the feel sorry for you?

By NellyFromMA on 8/16/2013 9:53:56 AM , Rating: 2
A retard? I mean, should the general public be so saavy that they must know this or else be retards?

Why not take the opportunity to educate people who don't know, rather than label them 'retards'? And how does doing that address the larger issue, which is that people DON'T instantly realize what they give up. And it's quite a lot of people too.

I'm not surprised...
By AFUMCBill on 8/15/2013 8:11:15 PM , Rating: 2
Google provides a service. That service gets paid for by...drum roll...advertising.

With the Post Office you explicitly pay up front for them to carry your letter. With Google and a number of others, like "free" OTA TV, you do not. It's also the driving force behind Google wanting to get all those Android devices out there. The power - and the profits - of advertising. The cost of everything gets paid for somehow.

The things that seem "free" aren't really. Why are people surprised by this?

RE: I'm not surprised...
By Varun on 8/16/2013 10:34:59 AM , Rating: 2
True, but you can provide advertising without reading the email. They've just chosen to read the email and provide advertising based on the contents, but that was a choice. Other webmail providers don't necessarily do this.

Of course all of them read email for spam, and that isn't news... so not sure what side I'm on here.

RE: I'm not surprised...
By Piiman on 8/17/2013 2:02:33 PM , Rating: 2
Whats that saying
" If you aren't paying for a product you're the product" or something like that :-)

By bug77 on 8/15/2013 4:01:27 PM , Rating: 4
How many times is this going to be brought up?
Yes, Google scans your email to be able to target the ads it serves on the their website. I've been using Gmail since since beta and I've always known that. It was fully disclosed from the very beginning, why are people acting so shocked every now and then?
Also, does anyone expect other providers are just blindly relaying messages?

HIPAA violations?
By Chadder007 on 8/15/2013 6:29:51 PM , Rating: 2
So can we also expect HIPAA violations if a hospital or physicians clinic uses Google Apps now? Will Personal Health Information be considered breached and be subject to notifications and possible fines?

Thank you Google
By jmerk on 8/15/2013 7:10:49 PM , Rating: 2
I am sure that 99% of all emails being sent are not so private. With 77,000 GB of data to look over everyday, i know that it is not someone reading each one and it is a computer looking for key words like bomb or something and my emails have nothing of interest in it. I know better than to send credit card info via email. Remember you haven't paid google for your email, so get over it. I much rather have someone looking for emails that contain info about bombs and then nothing at all.

Let's get the analogy straight
By Azethoth on 8/15/2013 10:29:32 PM , Rating: 2
Sending email is like sending a postcard. Anyone can look at it along the way.

Sending encrypted email is like sending a letter in an envelope. You can not look at it without a letter opener of some kind.

Even that analogy is suspect because email just is not like mail even though it is called email. But if you pretend you can use heavy duty envelopes at the post office it sure fits better.

One thing not clear
By zzeoss on 8/16/2013 1:21:51 AM , Rating: 2
Do they parse the content of the e-mail server-side or client-side?
If it's client side, it's just like any other google ad-sense (or whatever the name is) that parses the pages you're looking at.

By ssobol on 8/16/2013 3:45:32 AM , Rating: 2
I find it very difficult to believe that anyone is actually surprised by this relevation. Come on people! This is what Google does for a living and they make no secret of it.

Google sells ads. Their whole thing is that they can determine what is most interesting to a particular user so that the ads that user sees are more likely to be of interest and therefore clicked on, and then Google gets its money. They are going to use as many means as possible to do this. You didn't really think that they provided Gmail, Google Earth, Google+, YouTube, Google this, Google that, just because they are being nice.

Their model is not a whole lot different from the printer manufacturers that let you have a printer cheap and then get you on the ink.

Free with ADs
By foxalopex on 8/16/2013 11:45:31 AM , Rating: 2
I find it sad that people don't realize that while Google doesn't personally read your E-mail, they do scan it for information which allows their AI systems to generate appropriate ADs which target your interests. I remember finding it cute that when I searched for something, I suddenly found appropriate banners relating to the same information.

Don't like that idea? Well switch to a pay for service for E-mail then because there really isn't any other solution. At least be grateful it's not like some DVDs where you pay for a movie and still get bombarded with ADs.

Unless you want a taxpayer supported E-mail system which I'm sure *sarcastically* will work that well.

what does google know about me?
By mdurands on 8/17/2013 2:30:35 PM , Rating: 2
Just scripts
By ninjaquick on 8/19/2013 9:21:47 PM , Rating: 2
Google only 'reads' emails insofar that they have a script run through the body to find keywords. This does nothing to alter or store the data, and google employees most certainly do not look at the email data... There is no recorded findings for each instance, as the 'reading' is done on the fly, either locally or remotely depending on platform, and is part of the gmail service back end.

Seems Pretty Obvious
By deltaend on 8/20/2013 3:02:11 PM , Rating: 2
Targeted advertisements based upon content? Seemed pretty obvious from the very first day that I used Gmail. No actual person is reading my email, simply an automated system. No, I don't think that I have 100% bullet-proof privacy with any public service as I am an IT guy and I know that occasionally I have to drop into someone's email account to verify delivery of messages which means that I will glance at things such as subject lines, the first part of a message, etc... If you want private email (I mean, really, really private) you have to do encryption based emails with PGP through a service that has a policy of not viewing client's email.

The ONLY thing I find disturbing is that Gmail is used for a lot of businesses. Google needs to make it clear to businesses that there isn't the same expectation of privacy as running your own email server. Of course, businesses that use Gmail for their email probably aren't large enough to leak any secrets by accident that Google would be interested in, but still...

As far as the private sector goes... who cares if Lilly is cheating on Pete with John?

By p05esto on 8/22/2013 2:39:22 PM , Rating: 2
I have no problem with this, if you don't like Gmail (I don't, is far better). All gogole is doing is scaning your email for words and phrases and then delivering ads based on the content and your overall profile. So? Amazon and other sites do the same thing. If you talk about boobs maybe you'll get some ads for Viagra or whatever. I don't think they do sex stuff like that, but you get the idea. I'm not worried, don't care.

By arthurt1johnson on 8/16/2013 11:07:55 AM , Rating: 1
my buddy's sister makes $74/hr on the computer. She has been laid off for ten months but last month her income was $12095 just working on the computer for a few hours. Go to this web site and read more work25

Amazed at stupidity
By spaced_ on 8/18/2013 6:30:34 PM , Rating: 1
Frankly amazed at some of these posts and the stupidity of the legal tards looking at this. I'm also amazed at the stupid analogies to the postal system.



Virus and spam filters have to read those emails amongst whatever else the company you place your trust in decides to do with them.

I'm astonished the finger isn't also being pointed at Microsoft and Yahoo who do EXACTLY THE SAME THING AS GOOGLE.

If you give a shit about security learn what encryption is. Understand that at any point it is unencrypted it can be read by someone. Understand that traditional email is sent over the wire unencrypted at every point of transmission. Understand that a fully encrypted email service isn't provided to you for free by Google, Microsoft or Yahoo.

Want a postal service that doesn't read the contents of your email? Pay extra for it to be encrypted (unopened for the technically challenged). Every server that handles your email reads it in PLAIN TEXT. That's how the technology has worked since it was created. Jesus.

Oh. By the way though. The US government outlawed most methods of encryption so if you do want your email 'unopened', you'd be breaking the law.

I don't live in the US though so not my problem.

Do They?
By Reclaimer77 on 8/15/13, Rating: -1
RE: Do They?
By Labotomizer on 8/15/2013 4:03:53 PM , Rating: 5
When you're in Gmail there is a bar over on the right hand side of the screen that contains ads. If you're using AdBlocker or something similar you likely don't see them. However, while AdBlocker prevents you from seeing them, it does not prevent, or change, the fact that Google is scanning your email and attempting to display those ads to you.

Additionally they have started dropping "Offers" right into the middle of your email messages. For the most part they look like an email message but it's actually an ad.

So no, you're not lucky. You're probably blocking the ads. But Google is still scanning your email looking for search terms. And with AdWords and it can get pretty crazy. I got an email from a friend of mine about some CCNP training I was interested in to my GMail account. Later that day I was on a website and it had Cisco Training ad banners all over it. If that's not an invasion of privacy I really don't know what is.

That said, I only lightly use my GMail account and I accept the trade offs. But I understand them, the majority of the population does not.

RE: Do They?
By Reclaimer77 on 8/15/2013 4:09:22 PM , Rating: 4
When you're in Gmail there is a bar over on the right hand side of the screen that contains ads. If you're using AdBlocker or something similar you likely don't see them.

LOL you mean there's people who don't use AdBlock? :)

But Google is still scanning your email looking for search terms.

But we knew that years ago. We accepted that. This is nothing new.

Every free email service engages in this, in one form or the other. Otherwise it wouldn't be free.

But I understand them, the majority of the population does not.

That's because we blindly click "accept" whenever a TOS statement or whatever pops up, don't we? I know I sure do lol.

RE: Do They?
By Labotomizer on 8/15/2013 4:13:11 PM , Rating: 2
lol I agree. And I don't think it's Google's responsibility to spoon feed people. It's pretty easy to see what's going on.

I'm just pointing out that it's happening if you see them or not.

RE: Do They?
By Roffles on 8/15/2013 5:07:18 PM , Rating: 2
adblock for chrome is blocking 17 ads on this dailytech article page. probably 95% of websites on the internet have ads. i can't imagine life without ads filtered out of my face. how is it that MOST people don't know about ad blocking and popup blocking programs? it's absolutely integral to dealing with the internet.

RE: Do They?
By Reclaimer77 on 8/15/2013 6:02:50 PM , Rating: 2

Know what I love the most? AdBlock even works on YouTube to block the forced advertisements. It just goes straight to the video you want to watch.

And it seems to me that Google could easily defeat AdBlock on Youtube if they wished (like BlipTV and others), but has chosen not to.

Not sure why, but I'm glad.

RE: Do They?
By artemicion on 8/15/2013 6:33:03 PM , Rating: 2
Personally, I do not use plugins like AdBlock because they deprive the websites I enjoy of revenue.

Ads are not a significant inconvenience for me, so I'd rather endure the ads than force websites to turn to alternative sources of revenue, such as paid subscriptions.

RE: Do They?
By TSS on 8/16/2013 4:06:34 AM , Rating: 2
I've got adblock turned off on youtube. One of the few sites where i'll do such a thing.

Many of the youtubers i watch i'm only able to watch because they get ad-revenue from it. If you block those ads, they don't get any revenue from it either.

If not for that revenue, they would not make video's. They would find a "proper" job, as they have mouths to feed as well. Even though their content is far superiour to content the TV channels put out. They advertise maybe 3-4 minutes per hour of content too, while TV channels advertise atleast 25 minutes per hour of content (here in holland some channels have 10(!) minutes worth of ads between programs)

IMO they haven't "defeated" adblock yet because there's no fight to be fought. The only alternative - TV - is far, far, far worse. (and google might know what i watch but in this age of digital television i've got a feeling the television companies do as well. I'd rather have google as my overlord then, as opposed to paying the TV provider to take my info).

RE: Do They?
By Azethoth on 8/15/2013 10:33:01 PM , Rating: 2
Oh please. It is just as easy to ignore ads yourself. Ads are only an issue when they actually get in the way like those stupid click links or overlay ads obscuring what you want to look at or forced ads during videos.

RE: Do They?
By Rukkian on 8/15/2013 5:09:50 PM , Rating: 2
It is a "free" service, but they are not giving it to you for the betterment of society. In the end, google is a business. Anybody who does not understand that would have to be an idiot. I personally would rather have ads that are for items I may actually be interested in (even if I never even look at them) than a bunch of feminine wash adds or barney videos.

RE: Do They?
By KITH on 8/15/2013 5:53:27 PM , Rating: 2
Using Chrome by any chance?

RE: Do They?
By phatboye on 8/15/2013 6:29:20 PM , Rating: 2
I used Gmail as a imap server on Mozilla Thunderbird I have never once seen a single ad. All without installing any ad blockers or etc.

RE: Do They?
By JasonMick on 8/15/2013 4:04:44 PM , Rating: 3
This cannot be right. Gmail has one of the best spam filters of any web provider. I've never gotten a targeted advertisement because of Gmail.

I do, however, get the hell spammed out of me by Ebay, Amazon, and Newegg. But not because of Gmail, just because I shop at those retailers.

So is this FUD, am I just lucky, or what?
You're misunderstanding.

Google isn't sending you spam emails -- that's not what's being discussed here. Rather, it's targeting its ads on affiliate pages (e.g. some of our ads are served via Google in addition to our own affiliate network -- this is true of most news sites).

Also when you do a Google search, text ads sometimes show up ahead of or after the actual search results. Example:

Often the search terms are sufficient to target ads, but it appears that Google is using its cached information on various IPs to differentiate in cases of ambiguity or in which the searched terms don't have any clear product to advertise.

Of course if you use certain browser plugins you might not have noticed this fun feature.

RE: Do They?
By Reclaimer77 on 8/15/2013 4:27:21 PM , Rating: 2
lol I wish I could edit my OP, I feel like a dunce. Yeah I misunderstood you big time.

You know, I've been using AdBlock so long, I honestly forget those banners even exist lol.

RE: Do They?
By Skywalker123 on 8/17/2013 6:32:58 PM , Rating: 2
I feel like a dunce.

Glad to see you getting in touch with your inner self, although they say you have been touching yourself for years.

RE: Do They?
By artemicion on 8/15/2013 4:27:21 PM , Rating: 2
Speaking of spam filters, funny how no one makes the argument that their "privacy" is being violated when Google processes and scans your e-mails for spam, or when Google scans your e-mails for viruses.

RE: Do They?
By bah12 on 8/15/2013 6:03:51 PM , Rating: 2
Honestly this is the big downside for this ruling. If Goolge is found guilty it sets a tough precedent for ANY spam filter, how far would it set the internet world back if no "3rd party to the conversation" could scan for spam. Our inboxes would look like they did back in the early 2000's full of 90% crap.

RE: Do They?
By Reclaimer77 on 8/15/2013 6:41:12 PM , Rating: 1
Honestly this is the big downside for this ruling. If Goolge is found guilty it sets a tough precedent for ANY spam filter, how far would it set the internet world back if no "3rd party to the conversation" could scan for spam. Our inboxes would look like they did back in the early 2000's full of 90% crap.

If people are dumb enough to agree with this ruling, that's what SHOULD happen. I say bring it on. Let the Government and the il-legal system turn the Internet into a steaming pile of shit.

But who am I kidding? Even if that did happen, people would too goddamn stupid to understand the real reason why. Instead they would cry out to the Government to do something, when all that would be required was for it's huge incompetent ass to step out of the way and let the free market reign.

RE: Do They?
By artemicion on 8/15/2013 7:09:14 PM , Rating: 2
You know, if you think the U.S.'s government is so crappy, you could move someplace like Egypt, which basically has no government. Try Sinai. It's generally regarded as completely lawless. Sure, you'll probably get taken hostage and your family will get ransom calls and your kidneys will be harvested if they can't pay up, but you can be damn sure there will be no "government" to rescue you.

RE: Do They?
By rountad on 8/16/2013 10:16:50 AM , Rating: 2
Very few people are arguing for anarchy. Mogadishu or Egypt are not shining examples to follow.

I personally don't want the government to be the proposed solution for many problems, though. I want it to be a small fraction of its current size and to do only what it is specifically authorized to do.

RE: Do They?
By NellyFromMA on 8/16/2013 9:54:57 AM , Rating: 2
Consumer Safety vs Consumer Privacy Violation.

RE: Do They?
By ven1ger on 8/15/2013 4:34:15 PM , Rating: 2
I think I rather see ads that I may be interested in based upon keywords, than ads for Viagra, women related health, beauty, skin products, etc.

I like many others use Gmail and understand that while it is a free email service that it is a service given to us to use based upon that Gmail may use it for ad driven revenue, otherwise if I didn't want it, I'd go and pay for an email service.

Not sure if Google offers a paid service so you don't get ads, but those that don't want ads maybe can pay Google for their email service.

Kind of makes you wonder where this attack upon Google is coming from.

RE: Do They?
By Flunk on 8/15/2013 4:38:29 PM , Rating: 2
They often get it very wrong. For example, because I like cars I keep up on them. Because of this nearly all the Google ads I see are for cars (or PC stuff). I'm not buying a car, nor do I plan to for a good long time so they're really just wasting their time.

RE: Do They?
By AFUMCBill on 8/15/2013 8:28:24 PM , Rating: 2
Their still right. Their (Google's) business is all about the statistically sufficient response of customers buying products to keep the advertisers keep paying for advertising. Not everybody has to respond to the ads. Just like TV.

RE: Do They?
By bill.rookard on 8/15/2013 6:04:30 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think this really applies as 'reading', and your comment about spam filters brings up a good point. In many respects, spam filters work in a very similar manner, opening your mail before you get it, 'reading' it for spammy keywords and then taking an action based on the results.

This is no different than the suggested advertisement targeting, but be honest, how many people would want to get rid of spam filters due to privacy?


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