SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) â€” Googleâ€™s attorneys say their long-running practice of electronically scanning the contents of peopleâ€™s Gmail accounts to help sell ads is legal, and are asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit that seeks to stop the practice.
In court records filed in advance of a federal hearing scheduled for Thursday in San Jose, Google argues that â€œall users of email must necessarily expect that their emails will be subject to automated processing.â€
The class action lawsuit, filed in May, says Google â€œunlawfully opens up, reads, and acquires the content of peopleâ€™s private email messagesâ€ in violation of Californiaâ€™s privacy laws and federal wiretapping statutes. The lawsuit notes that the company even scans messages sent to any of the 425 million active Gmail users from non-Gmail users who never agreed to the companyâ€™s terms.
Google has repeatedly described how it targets its advertising based on words that show up in Gmail messages. For example, the company says if someone has received a lot of messages about photography or cameras then it might display an advertisement from a local camera store. Google says the process is fully automated, â€œand no humans read your emailâ€¦â€
â€œThis case involves Plaintiffsâ€™ effort to criminalize ordinary business practices that have been part of Googleâ€™s free Gmail service since it was introduced nearly a decade ago,â€ argue company attorneys in their motion to dismiss the case.
Privacy advocates have long questioned the practice.
â€œPeople believe, for better or worse, that their email is private correspondence, not subject to the eyes of a $180 billion corporation and its whims,â€ said Consumer Watchdog president Jamie Court.