Google violates your privacy in all kinds of awful ways, or at least that’s what the online privacy proponents would have you believe. The last major privacy hurdle Google had to jump involved the company’s Street View service. Some investigations are finally starting to close in that case, but Google now has to deal with a new privacy suit aim squarely at its email service.
Courthouse News reports that Google is being sued over Gmail as the plaintiffs in the case, Brad Scott and Todd Harrington, accuse the search giant of violating the California Invasion of Privacy Act. The law protects citizens’ communications from being intercepted by third parties without their permission.
Google vehemently denies the claim and says that Gmail doesn’t violate any laws because it’s automated via machines. The law in question states that “a person” must be intercepting the communication for it to be in violation of the law. The plaintiffs argue back that Google’s machines can be considered “a person” for the purpose of this law. Google says the plaintiff’s claim contorts state law “in ways the California Legislature never intended.”
Google filed a motion in court on Thursday to have the case thrown out. US District Judge Lucy Koh will hear the motion on March 21, 2013. Google will most likely succeed in having the case thrown out as there are a few problems with the plaintiff’s argument. For one, the law only applies to state citizens, but the plaintiffs are from out of state. Secondly, and more importantly, concepts such as email or Internet are never brought up once in the law. The law was written in respect to phone wiretapping, not online surveillance.
In related news, the Senate is now working on an update to another old law that hasn’t kept up with the proliferation of email – the Electronic Communications Act. Under the redesigned bill, law enforcement would be required to obtain a warrant if they wanted to snoop on your email. At the moment, law enforcement can just obtain your email from Google or anybody else without a warrant.