400 million people use Gmail in the US, and millions others (basically everyone) receives email from Gmail users. A pending lawsuit brings all of those email users together in one big class action lawsuit. That’s pretty much the entire United States. If the class action lawsuit gets the green light by the court system (which is a big if), Gmail – Google – is facing a possible loss in the trillions.
Prosecutors have accused Gmail of practicing what could be considered wiretapping. What kind of wire tapping, you might ask? Scanning emails. We all know that Google stores our search items, social media activity, and so on to sell to marketing companies. That’s how those eerily specific ads find you while surfing the net. What you might not know is that the same acquisition of information comes via your private email. If you don’t use Gmail, you might think that your information is safe – but think again! Any email received by your account that has been sent from an Gmail account has already been scanned for information. The details are classified, but prosecutors have painted the basic picture.
The hearing was on February 27 in San Jose, where Federal District Judge Lucy Koh was asked to consider granting class-action status. She hasn’t given an answer yet. Prosecutors, who were already concerned that any scanning of private emails without warrant could be an invasion of privacy, shed light on the fact that Gmail had changed its software in order to scan emails BEFORE they are even received. According to their information, a software called the Content One box already routinely checked storage systems to intercept and scan e-mail traffic. When Gmail realized that some were escaping the scan – from unopened or deleted e-mails, or from e-mails accessed by phones or through Microsoft Outlook – they changed the Gmail software to scan prior to sending. Some kind of alert would seem mandatory, but Google claims that clicking “agree” to the terms and conditions covers this practice.
It’s unlikely that the case will be granted class-action status. Take for example the class action lawsuit attempted against Walmart that joined 1.5 million women against the bulk-sales company. It failed because the 1.5 million couldn’t be proven to have enough in common with each other. Now take that to the level of hundreds of millions being grouped as a class against Gmail and identification, let alone analyzation, of that many people guarantees to be a near impossible task. Or so says Google.