Privacy International Continues Gmail Complaint Filing

    April 19, 2004

Watchdog group Privacy International, having already done so in the UK, filed a privacy complaint against Google’s Gmail in 17 European countries, as well as Canada and Australia.

As reported in Reuters, the filing contends Gmail “violates privacy law, both in Europe and in other countries. The complaint identifies a wide range of possible breaches of European Union law,” said Simon Davies, director of Privacy International.

The main two issues with Gmail is the policy of scanning email, in an automated fashion, with the intention of placing contextual based ads. The second issue is that Google continues to store emails that have been deleted by users.

European law dictates that emails should not be stored longer than necessary, while email scanning is only allowed under strict conditions.

Recently, the UK Information Commissioner ruled that Gmail was not in violation of privacy standards. The UK ICO said, “as long as it’s transparent to people when they sign up that Google is monitoring their email usage and passing that information on for marketing purposes, then they probably wouldn’t be breaking any legislation. Until Gmail’s up and running, though, we can’t be certain.”

Privacy International argues that while Gmail account holders may be consenting to having their emails scanned; outside account users sending mail TO Gmail accounts have not.

Google responded to these filings through an email to Reuters: “we look forward to a detailed dialogue with data protection authorities across Europe to ensure their concerns are heard and resolved.”

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