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TheStreet Open House

Gmail Judge Holds Internet Accountable To Wiretap Laws In Key Consumer Victory, Says Consumer Watchdog

SANTA MONICA, Calif., Sept. 26, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a seminal decision for online privacy, a federal judge in San Jose, CA., today rejected Google's claims that wiretapping laws do not apply to its Gmail business and that consumers who email people with Gmail accounts have no legitimate expectation of privacy.  

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.

"This is a historic step for holding Internet communications subject to the same privacy laws that exist in the rest of society. The court rightly rejected Google's tortured logic that you have to accept intrusions of privacy if you want to send email," said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project Director. "The ruling means federal and state wiretap laws apply to the Internet.  It's a tremendous victory for online privacy. Companies like Google can't simply do whatever they want with our data and emails."

Read the decision here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/GoogleGmailOrder092613.pdf

"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 …

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