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Is Gmail wiretapping your communications?

On Thursday, a federal judge potentially created a huge mess for the hundreds of millions of people who use Gmail by ruling that the search giant's practice of automatically scanning email in order to target ads "plausibly" violates federal wiretap laws.

The case is interesting for a number of reasons. Actual Gmail users, whether they realize it or not, have always implicitly agreed to having their emails scanned. That's the deal. That's how Google is able to financially support providing an excellent free email service. But in her ruling Judge Lucy Koh supports her decision by declaring that the "interception of emails" is not essential to the basic service.

...[T]he alleged interception of emails at issue here is both physically and purposively unrelated to Google’s provision of email services. Google’s alleged interceptions are neither instrumental to the provision of email services, nor are they an incidental effect of providing these services. The Court therefore finds that Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged that the interceptions fall outside Google’s ordinary course of business.

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