Google is scanning your emails

Google’s terms of service have been updated to spell out its right to scan your emails

Google is scanning your emails

On Monday, Google’s terms of service were updated to officially spell out its right to scan its users emails. The amendment reads:

"Our automated systems analyse your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customised search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored."

Previously the terms of service simply stated that Google was analysing your content, without specifying that this included scanning private emails. The change has come following a lawsuit against Google, filed by Gmail users, and non-users who have sent emails to Gmail accounts. The lawsuit claims that Google was, until Monday, in violation of US federal and state wiretapping laws by scanning private communication without consent.

Google attempted to have the case dismissed by arguing that users had given either implied or explicit consent by using the product in the first place, however, the claims were rejected after it was noted that Google’s terms of service did not specify that emails were being scanned.

The updated clause continues:

“When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.”

During a motion filed last year, Google defended the practice of scanning emails, saying that users who send their communications through a third-party cannot expect privacy. "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.”

Read more at the Guardian website

Opinion: Are you really surprised?

I suspect that many Gmail users already knew that Google was scanning emails. Gmail allows users to search for any email in the inbox or archive using a function similar to a Google search. There is no way such a feature could work without scanning emails, but it’s such a useful tool nobody wanted to question it.

But now that Google has taken the clear, honest and straightforward approach, letting its users know exactly what is happening to their emails and how, it’s turned into a witch-hunt. Nobody likes the idea of private emails being read by strangers – it’s creepy and has shades of Big-Brother. But Google has made it abundantly clear that email scanning is a fully automated process – a computer reads the data your computer is sending and uses this to generate more data to automatically give you relevant advertising or let you search through a backlog of 10,000 emails for that one joke your sister sent you two years ago about a man riding a horse called Friday. There are no human beings involved in the process, and nobody but the sender and receiver is actually reading your email correspondence.

I think anyone using the internet for anything, whether it be emailing friends, writing a blog or searching YouTube needs to understand that privacy online is tenuous, at best. By being involved with the World Wide Web you are making your online movements known to anyone with the know-how to watch. This is a fact of 21st century life and it isn’t going away. Trying to legislate against it at this point would be like trying to cork a volcano.

I’m not saying that your privacy shouldn’t be respected. Just because someone can access your data doesn’t mean that they should. Companies such as Google understand that if they breach this privacy even once without a morally defensible reason, then they will break what trust they do have with their users, probably permanently. It’s those who have no moral code to uphold, such as the hackers, of whom you need to be wary.

So it seems there are two options. You can go offline, permanently, and reclaim your privacy. Or you can continue to use the internet and hope that you fly under the radar. But these days it’s difficult to have it both ways.

What do you think? Should Google stop scanning emails and simply offer fewer personalised services? Does it worry you that such a big corporation knows so much about so many people worldwide? Or is this just a fact of internet life?





    COMMENTS

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    unicorn
    17th Apr 2014
    11:21am
    If you have any brains you do not say anything that would be misconstrued
    or used in any way against you, when dealing with anyone. Be it by mail , email or telephone,
    particolor
    17th Apr 2014
    7:42pm
    Or else it may be taken down and used in Effervescence against You !!
    Wstaton
    17th Apr 2014
    12:13pm
    Needless to say one should not use gmail for personal emails or anything that you want to keep relatively private. I just use gmail for trash stuff.
    particolor
    17th Apr 2014
    7:21pm
    like complaint letters to Canberra !!...
    Coachman on the box
    17th Apr 2014
    12:44pm
    Google is not in the same position as a PA whose job it is to assist whoever s/he is PA to. Gmail is, as its name strongly suggests, a mail service and as such has the same duties of a mail service - to deliver mail without interference. Their rewriting of their 'terms of service is a cynical two fingers to the American legal system and an even more cynical and Big Brotherlike two-handed f**k off to all who use the service. Google is an amoral organisation which, despite their claims of 'providing a service', or 'customer experience' - American weasel words - are nothing more than another in the long line of self-serving, greedy, American monsters that strut the world stage above national and international law and unanswerable to code of ethics through which society remains decent, fair and honest. We do not have to accept that, we do not have to accept that we are subject to their whims and wishes. We do not have to accept that this abuse by them of us is a fact of internet life. Without us they are nothing. Withdraw your custom and watch them shrivel.
    Mak
    17th Apr 2014
    1:23pm
    Good one Coachman, my thoughts exactly, and Google suffer from thinking 'the biggest is the best' American syndrome.
    SWWare Iron and DuckDuck Go are high-class browsers with no bells and whistles and privacy protectors.
    Mak
    17th Apr 2014
    1:16pm
    So, don't use Gmail,
    Mozilla Thunderbird - Free Windows Email Program
    Windows Outlook ... (improved Hot-Mail) known as Windowls Live Mail
    GMX Free Windows Email Program
    i.Scribe - Free Windows Email Program
    Sylpheed - Free Windows Email Program
    Alpine - Free Windows Email Program
    DreamMail - Free Windows Email Program
    Foxmail - Free Windows Email Program
    Mulberry - Free Windows Email Program
    Pegasus Mail - Free Windows Email Program
    Windows Live Mail - Free Windows Email Program
    Opera - Free Windows Email Program
    Mak
    17th Apr 2014
    1:26pm
    If you guys at YLC really care about Seniors and their security on the Internet you should be promoting SWWare Iron and DuckDuck Go as the browsers to use.
    bubyshka
    17th Apr 2014
    4:25pm
    never heardy of either of those two browsers mak perhaps ur american!!!
    KSS
    17th Apr 2014
    4:15pm
    Not sure why people are shocked about this. It certainly isn't just google doing this.

    It should be well known by now you don't do or say anything on line you would not be happy to see attributed to you on the front page of the newspaper.

    Nothing is private anymore.
    moorlands
    17th Apr 2014
    5:19pm
    If anyone using these forums do NOT think that they are continually trawled by PAID I repeat PAID Political parties or newspapers usually Right wing, DREAM ON. Hi Dougie hope your study trip went well, we understand under the secrecy act you cannot disclose your itinerary, Surfer, we suppose you got wiped out by a wave, Luchar silence is golden? but if we keep searching we will sure you will emerge under another alias, doogie? the list goes on. We visit these forums to keep our minds active not to be brainwashed.
    Grateful
    17th Apr 2014
    5:55pm
    Hope they don't sell mine to Tony!! There goes my pension for sure!!
    Just kidding, hasn't got the proverbials to do ANYTHING that will cost him votes!! Joe will be the bad cop just to make "blue tie" look like the good cop!!!
    particolor
    17th Apr 2014
    7:19pm
    Doesn't worry Me !!.. I'm not Mailing around trying to get rid of a 3 Grand bottle of Plonk !!!
    particolor
    17th Apr 2014
    7:31pm
    If You are on any Blogging sites, don't tell Me You haven't noticed the adds are directly linked to the topic ??.. Spy Baskets Everywhere !!
    rallygreg
    17th Apr 2014
    7:15pm
    This is nothing new, Google has been scanning Gmail since it started (and has said so) - that's how you get the targeted advertising just above the email you are reading.

    The difference is that they now state that they are scanning ALL emails.

    Does it really matter that some computer is scanning my emails to better target advertising that then creates more money for Google and allows Google to provide me with a very good email system for free?
    mudGecko
    17th Apr 2014
    11:40pm
    The deal with Google has always been that if you use their FREE programs, you accept their conditions. They've always talked about targeting advertising to the individual. A small tradeoff for mine. From memory, I believe that Google were the first commercial entity to give you the choice of not paying for browsers and all other programs and making the web freely available for research. Before then the punter was expected to pay up front. In my opinion the absolute marvels of Google Search, freely available, and the many other Google programs/services, outweighs their minor advertising narrowcasting. I have no paranoiia, so I have no problems with it.
    Coachman on the box
    18th Apr 2014
    6:10pm
    It's not about paranoia, it's about privacy.
    AlbertC
    18th Apr 2014
    6:25am
    well we all have things to say if you don,t want others to know what you are thinking don,t write it to others. have a nice day.
    particolor
    18th Apr 2014
    7:57am
    I think ?
    Rese
    18th Apr 2014
    7:17am
    I say nothing on any internet forum (social media or, email) that would cause me angst if the world or anyone in it knew. I apply the same to off-line as well :/
    particolor
    18th Apr 2014
    7:59am
    Silence is a Virgin !!

    19th Apr 2014
    9:11pm
    I'd say that as long as you don't say anything vicious or stupid or inflammatory or outright dangerous to anyone - it should be all right. I've posted for many years on a gender issues discussion site and I can assure you that some of the ladies there get the most horrendous emails from trolls and other psychotics, and anyone playing with fire by posting stupid stuff like 'let's go jihad someone' deserves retribution.
    Coachman on the box
    19th Apr 2014
    10:24pm
    It's not about what you say, or think, Grappler, it's about privacy. Put it this way, if you put a letter to a friend, or relative into an Australia Post box tomorrow, would you expect it to be opened and read by Australia Post employees, or robots whilst it was on its way to its destination? I wouldn't. I've nothing to hide, but I'll be damned if I agree to a commercial organisation interfering with my private correspondence for their own commercial gain.

    21st Apr 2014
    10:22am
    An honest person has nothing to fear
    Coachman on the box
    21st Apr 2014
    1:09pm
    And all the honest Jews in Nazi Germany? The honest Muslims in Srebrenica? The honest inmates of Guantanamo? The honest refugees on Manus Island? The honest people of North Korea? Your fatuous statement is the one that has been used by every oppressive and downright murderous criminal regime, and their apologists down the centuries. You're the sort of individual who, wittingly, or unwittingly, creates the fertile gound in which these horrors grow either through misguided judgement about the forces and undercurrents going on within society, downright foolishness, wilful compliance with propaganda or the inability (or perhaps fear-driven desire) to not recognise and learn the lessons of history. Take enough of you people and the bellowing hounds of hell will eventually be loosed on honest society. What you fail to realise is that, in the long run, history is on the side of the honest; those who lack the vision and the guts to stand up when it matters against the creeping forces of extremism and tyranny will go with them. I wish you no ill, PIXAPD, but you really need to open your eyes as well as read some history.
    mudGecko
    21st Apr 2014
    1:30pm
    Postman... etc, "The honest refugees on Manus Island?" Dear boy, that is fantasy. Take your medication and then don't use gmail again. Simple.
    Coachman on the box
    21st Apr 2014
    1:38pm
    You have nothing to say of any import, or significance; you can't even get my screen name correct.


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