At a time when privacy concerns have become paramount on the back of scandals like Prism, in a shocking revelation, Google has admitted that it opens and reads user mails, to direct targeted advertisements based on the content in the mail.
What’s more, Google has also said that these actions include access to mails that are sent by third party mailing domains that haven’t even signed Google terms and conditions. Google justifies reading user mails on the back of a justification wherein Google says that it is part of the Terms and Conditions users sign when signing up for a Google account.
In a court filing earlier last week Google says, “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.”
In essence, Google is comparing itself with a postal service and using an old act which says that senders of mails give up their right to privacy once they hand the letter over to a third party.
Tech experts, however, have taken exception to this, saying that the analogy being used here is wrong, given the fact that one expects the Post Office to deliver the letter based on the address written on the envelope and not to open the 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,” says John Simpson, head of the privacy project at Consumer Watchdog