In testimony to the California Senate Judiciary Committee, EPIC West Director Chris Jay Hoofnagle argued that Google’s Gmail service presents significant risks to personal privacy. The Gmail system reads the actual content of e-mail and attachments in order to target advertising. While Google calls this process content “scanning,” the company’s patents use the phrase “content extraction” to describe the Gmail model. Mr. Hoofnagle argued that Gmail users bargain away their own privacy, but in doing so, also give away the privacy of non-subscribers. Those who send e-mail to Gmail users also experience content extraction but never receive notice or consent to the process.
Google defends Gmail by stating that e-mail scanning is no different than virus scanning or spam interdiction. While it is true that there is no technical difference between these functions, there fundamental legal difference.
EPIC Testimony on Gmail
I have written on Gmail and Privacy before – I do have an account and Ido have issues with the ‘scanning’. Coudert Brother’s Eva Wong wrote a good piece from and EU law perspective on Gmail last year that’s worth a read