State Senator Drafts Bill in Wake of Google Gmail Complaints

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Google GMail and other free email services are now the target of legislation introduced by Californian State Senator Liz Figueroa, who has drafted a bill which would protect users from content spying and snooping email providers. The legislation does not mention Google by name, but the introduction of and controversy surrounding Google GMail was the spark that started this privacy advocate fire.

The legislation is in the form of an amendment to SB.1822. The addition guarantees consumer’s the choice of opting-out from such content targeted advertisements that Google GMail uses to find its free email service.

Google has weighed the option of having GMail users opt-in for AdWords advertisements. Google President and co-founder Sergey Brin told the Wall Street Journal last week that Google “will not make any ‘rash changes’ to the email service which is still being tested by thousands of users.”

A rundown of Figueroa’s legislation:

Existing law prohibits a person or entity located in California from initiating or advertising in unsolicited commercial e-mail advertisements, as defined, and prohibits a person or entity not located in California from initiating or advertising in unsolicited commercial e-mail advertisements sent to a California e-mail address.
This bill would prohibit a provider of e-mail or instant messaging services, as defined, that serves California customers, from reviewing or evaluating the content of a customer’s e-mail or instant messages, except as specified. The bill would permit a provider of e-mail or instant messaging services to review and evaluate the content of a customer’s outgoing e-mail or instant messages with the customer’s consent, and would permit a provider to review and evaluate the content of incoming e-mail or instant messages only from another subscriber to the same service and only when that subscriber has consented to the procedure.

This section does not prevent a provider of e-mail or instant messaging services to California customers from filtering unsolicited e-mail for removing spam or for managing computer viruses or other malicious programs

In addition to Californian legislation there have been some other news making protests of Google’s plans for GMail advertising. On April 6, the World Privacy Forum and 27 other privacy and civil liberties organizations composed an open letter calling upon Google to suspend its Gmail service until the privacy issues are adequately addressed.

Additionally, Privacy International filed the complaints against Google GMail in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Spain, Czech Republic, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Portugal, Poland, Austria, Australia and Canada, and also with the European Commission and the Article 29 Data Protection Working Group.

Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Loren Baker
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  • When we walk into a store filled with security cameras the store does not ask our permission to take our pictures since it is assumed by the customer that the picture will be taken. Since it is all done in the open the issue of privacy is avoided. Gmail should be viewed in the same manner. Google has made no attempt to hide the background scan, all users signing up for the free email service are entering the contract knowing that the background scan is taking place. How can this be viewed as an invasion of privacy?

    • Denise

      I believe the difference is knowing and seeing. Most people are trained to identify cameras in a store. However, Googles gmail policy may not be visible to its user. I have a Gmail account and this is the first time I heard about this. It’s almost like I have no choice, google is so big.

  • Hmmm. When I reply to an email, I often quote chunks of it. What if a Google user were to do the same thing with my mails to them ? Can Google guarantee to avoid scanning quotes ? Perhaps now, but what about later ? Even Figueroa’s legislation is not guaranteed to protect *my* privacy, if the Gmail user has agreed to be scanned. I simply won’t be replying to any emails from GMail. Incidentally, the fact that this comment mechanism demands that I give an email, but will then publish it without my approval if I don’t provide a URI, seems to conflict with this site’s Privacy Policy…

  • PrivacyIsK3y

    I think it is rather ironic that this posting is on a page that has Google’s ADs enabled. 😉 Anywho, with respect to this, as long as people are informed about the dangers, why should google care? Afterall, does have to make money somehow.

  • Dustin

    Opting out of advertising content? Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of advertisements, which in turn would make Gmail NOT free? For crying out loud, Gmail is a free service that you don’t have to sign up for! If you want to use something for free, you deal with these things. And its not like Google ads are intrusive, annoying, or completely off base. This page uses them! Top left corner, Ads by Google. Are they offending anyone? email and complain she is wasting the taxpayers dollars. When I get the chance I am voting her out of office.

  • Phreekk

    Before any discussion about privacy and freedom can occur, I think the biggest and most evil of all privacy and freedom issues the Patriot Act needs to be discussed. This is our own government invading our privacy and freedom without our consent. Can I opt-out of the Patriot Act? Sure I can leave the country (opt-out on my own), and then be thrown in Guantanimo Bay as a traitor or terrorist for being against the American Regime.

  • luke

    Beware — Gmail’s computer is reading your email, and even worse, Microsoft’s “Word” software reads your important documents whenever you use the spellchecker function. Seriously people, is a computer that “reads” your mail that big of a deal?

    As if we don’t have enough laws already!

    Long live google!

  • Not sure if you can opt-out of the Patriot Act, maybe with a Kerry vote in November.

  • mike

    It is very disturbing that new innovation and services in a free democratic society like the United States can be outlawed when at the same time individuals’ freedom and privacy is severely invaded at the government level with the Patriot Act. If Senator Liz Figueroa is concerned with privacy she should help us all out and defend our rights and privacy at the government level with the Patriot Act.

  • Salut !

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  • Dr.Indranil Chakrabarti

    I think somebody else is using my former id but unfortunately i could not reset my password with the security question as those seems had been changed.Please look into the matter and help me to get access to the said account as important documents were contained within it.