Google is sued for showing ads in Gmail based on email content

For a long time now Google has been showing ads to Gmail users, with many of these ads being specifically targeted based on the content of emails. Google has embedded this right to serve ads based on email content into Gmail’s terms of use. Anyone that uses Gmail consents to these terms and therefore consents to email-based targeted ads; the only choice anyone has that doesn’t want Google scanning emails to serve targeted ads is to simply stop using Gmail. But what about people who don’t use Gmail? They have not agreed to Gmail’s terms of use, so does Google have the right to scan emails sent by these users to Gmail accounts and use the email content to serve ads? One lawsuit filed again Google says no.

Wayne Plimmer of British Columbia (Canada) is not a Gmail user; he has no Gmail accounts, has not agreed to Gmail’s terms of use, and, as such, has not consented to Google scanning his emails to serve ads. However, he sends emails to Gmail users and those emails are obviously being used to serve ads. Plimmer feels Google does not have the right to do this and has filed a class-action lawsuit against Google in that regard.

The lawsuit demands damages of $500 per email used by Google to serve ads and wants an injunction against Google to stop the company from using emails for serving ads (presumably only emails that are sent to Gmail accounts). The suit is filed on behalf of everyone living in British Columbia that has sent an email to a Gmail account but could potentially be expanded if similar lawsuits spring up across the country.

Google has yet to comment on this lawsuit. I’m no lawyer nor do I live in Canada, so I won’t try to comment on the validity, or lack thereof, of this lawsuit; however, it isn’t hard to imagine this turning into a legal quagmire for the company.

[via ArsTechnica]

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