Trending Topics

A Private Matter: Google Adjusts Gmail Users’ Privacy Expectations

Google is making headlines this week for a court motion it filed to have a case dismissed. The motion is being interpreted as Google’s claim that users of Gmail should not have an expectation of privacy. According to

“Plaintiffs in the case contend that Google’s automated scanning of email represents an illegal interception of their electronic communications without their consent. However, Google, which uses automated scanning to filter spam and deliver targeted advertising to its users, noted that plaintiffs consented to the practice in exchange for the email services. Google goes on to say that courts have held that all email users ‘necessarily give implied consent to the automated processing of their emails.'”

While this is causing quite a stir in the news, people should well be aware that Google’s free email service was never private. The majority of Google’s business model is to provide great free products in exchange for your information—which is used to provide targeting advertising. As reported by’s Molly Wood:

“So, yes, Google is saying that you don’t have an expectation of privacy when you’re using Gmail. But what Google is also saying is that you knew you didn’t have an expectation of privacy when you signed up, because when you signed up you agreed to contextual advertising, to indexed, searchable email, to spam filters, and to content filters like Priority Inbox.

“Those features, necessarily, involved automated scanning of e-mail. And, Google argues, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act specifically permits such indexing and automated scanning by email providers because it’s “necessary” for them to continue to deliver you free, Web-based email (that they use as a vector for serving you ads).”

So while people may be alarmed that Google is saying this outright about its Gmail service, it definitely shouldn’t come as a surprise. Google knows more about its users than the NSA does, this is part of the adjustment people have to make as they move into the digital era. The bigger question is: will people accept this as the norm, or will they eventually ask for sweeping changes?

Back to top