Is the Gmail Privacy Flap Just a Big Misunderstanding?

itcblog-marcusSummary Bullets:

  • Google has come under fire recently from a consumer organization which pointed to a company filing to claim Gmail users can have “no expectation of privacy”, given the company’s email processing function described in the public document. With Gmail in use by thousands of enterprises, business owners may be concerned about a potential breach in trust.
  • As it happens, the claims reveal no new information about any processes used by Google to manage its popular email service. Unfortunately, the press loves a story that makes Google out as “Big Brother” or worse, especially given the NSA surveillance revelations of recent months. Users should continue to trust Google as much or as little as they did prior to this press storm.

What Happened?

Google is in court over privacy concerns, fighting a class-action lawsuit that accuses it of breaking wiretap laws when it scans emails in order to target advertisements to Gmail users. It claims Google “unlawfully opens up, reads, and acquires the content of people’s private email messages”. In a bid to dismiss the suit, filed in May, Google explained that in the delivery of its service, messages could not be hidden from the company, seeing as it needs to process and display them for users. An unfortunate wording in its filing implies users shouldn’t expect “objective confidentiality”, but the company was trying to be transparent about the reality of electronic communication, the messages transmitted by which are by definition exposed to the software and machines running the system. Continue reading “Is the Gmail Privacy Flap Just a Big Misunderstanding?”