Feeds

Google: Cloud users have 'no legitimate expectation of privacy'

Third-party handling means just that, says court filing

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

A motion to dismiss filed by Google in a court case last month has offered some juicy quotes about the company's privacy policy, but legally it looks like the Chocolate Factory is in the clear.

"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," the motion reads.

"Indeed, 'a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.'"

The filing stems from a class action lawsuit filed against the company over its scanning of emails to build personalized advertising that pays for Gmail. The plaintiffs sued on the grounds that this violated the Federal Wiretap Act and California's privacy laws.

"Google has finally admitted they don't respect privacy," said John Simpson, privacy project director of Consumer Watchdog, the non-profit that publicized the court motion. "People should take them at their word; if you care about your email correspondents' privacy don't use Gmail."

Consumer Watchdog has been a vociferous critic of Google over the last few years, filing objections to the Chocolate Factory's use of data and the extent of its business. You may remember them from such previous activities as accusing Larry Page of hypocrisy and calling Google Glass "a voyeur's dream come true" at Google's last shareholder meeting.

When you read through the full filing, however, it turns out that Google's assertion is legally correct. In 1979, the US Supreme Court considered the case of Smith v. Maryland, appealing the use of a wiretap on a telephone, and they ruled that:

Since the defendant had disclosed the dialed numbers to the telephone company so they could connect his call, he did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the numbers he dialed.

Google is making the same argument when it comes to keyword searching for advertising, and the law is on its side; the Electronic Communications Privacy Act allows such indexing. It's doubly covered because indexing is included in Gmail's terms and conditions.

But the fact is that almost no one reads the terms and conditions, including a lamentably large section of IT services decision makers. If you're going to get third-party email providers to handle your communications, then you've got to expect a lower level of privacy than if you do the job yourself.

Still, the quotes come at an awkward time for Google. On Wednesday it extended the search personalization and voice recognition it has been using in Google Now to include all logged-in internet searches.

"Over the next several days, we’ll be rolling this out to all U.S., English-speaking users on desktop, tablet and smartphone, with voice search (so you don’t have to type)," said Google product manager Roy Livne.

Ask your Google app "What's my schedule?" and it will crawl through your Gmail, Google+ and Calendar settings to find the answer, using just the kind of search techniques mentioned in the lawsuit. In this case, however, the Chocolate Factory is including an off button. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
DOUBLE BONK: Testy fanbois catch Apple Pay picking pockets
Users wail as tapcash transactions are duplicated
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
YARR! Pirates walk the plank: DMCA magnets sink in Google results
Spaffing copyrighted stuff over the web? No search ranking for you
In the next four weeks, 100 people will decide the future of the web
While America tucks into Thanksgiving turkey, the world will be taking over the net
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.