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Google Reads Your Gmail?

This might not be surprising to many. But Google recently admitted that "'a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy" when she uses Gmail.

The statement was made as part of a class-action suit against the search giant, which alleges Google violates state and federal wiretap laws when it scans your messages for data. The Santa Monica–based group Consumer Watchdog was livid over the admission this week and urged people who care about their privacy not to use Gmail:

John M. Simpson, privacy project director of the group, told the Weekly:

If you're concerned about privacy, particularly the privacy of people who send you a message, who aren't Gmail users, if you care about that, don't use Gmail.

He urged consumers to seek out email services that don't scan your content.

In response to the class-action suit, Google filed a motion to dismiss, arguing, in part, that Gmail users have no expectation of privacy from the moment they start using the service:

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. Indeed, 'a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.'

The plaintiffs have filed a response, and Google has had a chance to rebut that, Simpsons said. Both sides were due back in California U.S. District Court on Sept. 5, he said.

It's not clear from Google's response that actual human eyeballs get to see your emails. Apparently not. But Simpson says there's no difference:

They'll try to tell you it's all algorithms and no human eye looks at it. But the artificial intelligence that does this can be more invasive than a human. Out of the content of your messages they pull out digital dossiers about you and use them how they want to use them.

Simpson argues that it's this allegedly invasive data mining that allows the U.S. National Security Agency to hoard our communication and spy on Americans.

"The only reason the NSA is able to do what it does is because all of these tech companies that have amassed all these huge databases," he says.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.


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