Google Tells Court: Gmail Users Can’t Expect Privacy

Lawsuit Over Targeted Ads Could Have Impact on NSA Surveillance

It could be quite some time and a lot of fighting with a secretive administration before the NSA Internet surveillance scheme PRISM ever gets into a real (non-secret) court, but a lawsuit about targeted ads could be a preview of things to come.

That’s because one of PRISM’s companies, Google, is facing the lawsuit based on its own “data-mining” of its users’ Gmail accounts without their permission, in this case so that they can offer “targeted ads” to those users based on the content of their emails.

Google’s defense in this case is in many ways the same defense the Justice Department has been throwing out there for its own surveillance of Internet users’ email, that customers have no “reasonable expectation” that their email accounts would be private.

“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 communications are processed by the recipient’s ECS [electronic communications service] provider,” Google insisted.

Google has been desperately trying to repair its public image after the revelation of involvement in PRISM. Repeated promises that they are respecting users’ privacy with respect to the NSA’s demands will be even harder to swallow amid their cynical defense of doing similar “data-mining” just for the sake of selling products.

The court’s receptiveness to this defense could also be hugely important if and when the NSA’s own reading of Americans’ emails ever comes to court.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of