Google admits it’s reading your emails, tells court Gmail users should not expect privacy

Google’s latest update on Monday only highlights how apathetic they are to the privacy of their users and consider every bit of data transmitted through their services (Google plus, YouTube) as part of ‘fair game.’

The ‘fair game’ constitutes,

When you upload, or otherwise 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,” it said.

It does not stop there. Further on,

The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services,” adds Google.

So how much does Google use your data. Here is what it  says,

If you have a Google Account, we may display your Profile name, Profile photo, and actions you take on Google or on third-party applications connected to your Google Account (such as +1’s, reviews you write and comments you post) in our Services, including displaying in ads and other commercial contexts. 

This clause was already present in the November, 2103 version. The latest addition on April 14, 2014, states that,

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

Clarifying on the latest update about its ‘Privacy & Terms’, the Google said the updates are not change, but rather clarification, making it ‘easy for users to understand.’

Google has been quite vocal and unabashed about its open encroachment of user’s privacy.

Google has been embroiled in privacy issues earlier as well. In August 2013, Google justified accessing users’ data as,

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.

Consumer Watchdog, a rights group, argues,

Google’s brief uses a wrong-headed analogy… I expect the Post Office to deliver the letter based on the address written on the envelope. I don’t expect the mail carrier to open my letter and read it. Similarly when I send an email, I expect it to be delivered to the intended recipient with a Gmail account based on the email address; why would I expect its content will be intercepted by Google and read?

The group cautioned people,

Google has finally admitted they don’t respect privacy, People should take them at their word; if you care about your email correspondents’ privacy don’t use Gmail.

Information technology and security experts allege that Google, singularly, dominates the online search to such an extent that anything related to it impacts the entire cyberspace, said The Inquirer.

Google agreed that the changes were ‘based on feedback we’ve received over the last few months.’

Some of the feedback also included a few lawsuits as well, a recent one being the lawsuit in California where the plaintiffs alleged violation of wiretapping laws by scanning their e-mail.

Google had requested the lawsuit to be dismissed but it was turned down by US District Court Judge, Lucy Koh, who, however, also refused to unify several lawsuits against Google in a single group case on behalf of hundreds of millions of Internet users.

Wiretapping laws require consent from both parties before their contents are accessed and in cases where one user is Gmail user and the other a non-Gmail user, the laws are violated.

In response to this, Charles Tendell, founder of Azorian Cyber Security, feels ethical and legal lines are being blurred and there is need for well-defined digital laws.

So much for using Google’s services is definitely not in a good taste; one might be forced to ask how concerned Google is to make its users safe from hackers.

Or is the company only interested in sifting our contents to be used by third-party with no moral obligations to make the transmission safe from cyber abuse.


Pushpa Mishra

Pushpa is a Dubai based scientific academic editor who worked for Reuters’ Zawya business magazine and at the same time a passionate writer for HackRead. From the very first day she has been a blessing for team Hackread. Thanks to her dedication and enthusiasm.