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Friday, September 27, 2013
Google To Face Suit Over Scanning of Messages in Gmail

A federal judge in San Jose, CA., today rejected Google's claims that wiretapping laws do not apply to its Gmail business and that Google must face a lawsuit for illegally opening and reading the contents of email sent through its Gmail service.

In rejecting all but two of the Internet giant?s motions to dismiss a class action suit, Judge Lucy Koh ruled that reading emails is not a necessary part of Google's business operations and that California's Invasion of Privacy Laws apply to opening and reading online communications without consent.

"Google's alleged interceptions are neither instrumental to the provision of email services, nor are they an incidental effect of providing these services. The Court therefore finds that Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged that the interceptions fall outside Google's ordinary course of business," wrote Judge Koh.

Judge Koh also found that the Google's Terms of Service and Privacy Polices did not inform users about the Gmail interceptions. She wrote:

"The Court finds, however, that those policies did not explicitly notify Plaintiffs that Google would intercept users' emails for the purposes of creating user profiles or providing targeted advertising ...

"The Court therefore finds that a reasonable Gmail user who read the Privacy Policies would not have necessarily understood that her emails were being intercepted to create user profiles or to provide targeted advertisements. Accordingly, the Court finds that it cannot conclude at this phase that the new policies demonstrate that Gmail user Plaintiffs consented to the interceptions."

Judge Koh gave the plaintiffs permission to amend and re-file the two claims she dismissed.

Google says it automatically scans emails to target advertising based on words that appear in Gmail messages but says that machines, not people, do the scanning.

"We're disappointed in this decision and are considering our options," Google said. "Automated scanning lets us provide Gmail users with security and spam protection, as well as great features."

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