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Google is Reading Your E-mail

August 19, 2011
Colson Hicks Eidson

When you send an e-mail to someone with a Gmail account, Google scans your e-mail for keywords even if you do not have a Gmail account. Google then uses those keywords to send you targeted advertising.

Here is what I mean – you type an e-mail from your Yahoo account to a friend with a Gmail account. In the e-mail, you say you were afraid of burning the lasagna you made, but your spouse said it was, “sensational.” Google may glean the keywords “burning” and “sensation.” The next thing you know, you receive unsolicited e-mails for hemorrhoid medications.

Gmail users consent to Google’s e-mail scanning software, but non-Gmail users do not. That is the basis for a class action lawsuit in Massachusetts. The plaintiffs allege that Google’s scanning of their e-mails violates state wiretapping law, according to a story at cnet.com. The plaintiffs want $100 per day for each violation or $1000, whichever is greater.

For its part, Google said it has always used automated scanning software to show users relevant advertisements. It helps keep their services free, said Google.

Privacy experts say, and I agree, that the e-mail scanning software is akin to someone opening and reading your snail mail, and then using that information to send you junk mail.

Colson Hicks Eidson – Florida lawyers