Wayne Plimmer, a retiree living in Sechelt, British Columbia, filed a class action lawsuit against Google last week. In it, he and his attorney allege that Google’s Gmail service “intercepts, obtains and uses personal information it collections from emails sent to Gmail users.”
Gmail users, of course, can only use the service if they consent to Google’s terms of service, which explicitly allow the company’s algorithms to scan your email in order to present you with targeted ads. The twist in this lawsuit, and a number of previous ones filed against Yahoo and Google in a number of courts in the U.S. earlier this year, is that the plaintiff is not a Gmail user, which would immediately render his arguments moot. Instead, Plimmer argues that Google is invading his privacy by readings emails he sends to Gmail users. In addition, the lawsuit also argues that Google infringes on the email senders’ copyright, as well as solicitor-client, physician-patient, priest-penitent and journalist-source privileges.
The class action lawsuit, which Plimmer is launching on behalf of “all persons in the province of British Columbia who have sent email to a Gmail account,” asks for an injunction that would stop Google from intercepting any emails sent from British Columbia, as well as statutory damages for breach of copyright of $500 per email. Google is also supposed to delete “any and all” emails sent by members of the class action lawsuit. The company has 35 days to respond to these claims.
Talking to the Calgary Herald, Santa Clara University School of Law professor Eric Goldman argues that this is an “are-you-kidding-me” lawsuit. One could argue, he says, that if Google’s automatic scanning of incoming mail is a violation of the sender’s privacy, so is the use of anti-spam and anti-virus software. It’s also worth noting that these kinds of Gmail-related privacy concerns go all the way back to the launch of Gmail in 2004.
You can read the full lawsuit (via the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email), below: