Published by LawTechie - March 11, 2011 - LawTechie

GmailControversy over Gmail’s targeted advertising is alight again with a new class-action filed alleging that Google’s e-mail system violates federal wiretap law. Michaels v. Google, Inc., 11-cv-107 (EDTX, filed March 8, 2011). Mediapost reports:

Google has not yet responded to a request for comment about Michaels’ lawsuit. But the company says in an online privacy statement that its scanning process “is completely automated and involves no humans.” The company adds: “Neither email content nor any personal information is ever shared with other parties as a result of our ad-targeting process.”

The company also argues that scanning emails is necessary and, therefore, falls within an exception to the wiretap law. “Providing targeted ads to account holders is a necessary and fundamental aspect of Google’s aim to better serve its Gmail customers,” the company says.

Michaels’ complaint alleges that “Google does not adequately reveal and explain the essential nature of the fact that it creates, operates and maintains proprietary technology and algorithms to intercept, collect, scan, and analyze the content of every private email that a Gmail user sends or receives.” It will be interesting to see what Texas considers to be an “adequate” Terms of Use notice for the purpose of privacy disclaimers.

Additionally, it will be interesting to see whether the Federal Wiretap Act, 18 USC 2510, is interpreted to cover “automated scanning” such as the kind Gmail employs.

LawTechie is a blog focusing on trends in tech and digital media. Areas covered include intellectual property, cyberlaw, venture capital, transactions and litigation as they relate to the emerging sectors. The blog is edited by the firm's partner Tim Bukher with contributions from the firm's experts in their respective areas of law.


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