A PHILADELPHIA woman has accused Google of illegal wiretapping for "intercepting" emails she sent to Gmail accounts and publishing content-related ads.
The lawsuit filed by Kristen Brinkman, address unknown, echoes others filed around the country by class-action lawyers who say the practice violates wiretap laws in some states. They represent email users who do not have Gmail accounts and have therefore not signed the company's acceptance terms.
"The terms are that Google can intercept your emails and use them for direct marketing purposes," said lawyer Richard M. Golomb, who has sued Google in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Florida. "They are also intercepting emails of the non-Gmail account holder, in violation of wiretap laws in some states."
In court filings in the Maryland case, Google acknowledged that it routinely scans emails for spam and computer viruses, but said that's permitted under similar federal wiretap laws.
Google argued that selling advertising based on the content of a received email is a routine business practice permitted under an exception written into the wiretap law. Google notes that Yahoo and other email providers sell ads through similar methods.
Brinkman does not have a Gmail account and never signed the company's acceptance policy, according to her Nov. 30 lawsuit, which has been assigned to Senior U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody.
Google wants the various legal disputes resolved in northern California, where the first such lawsuit was filed in June. The search-engine giant is based in Mountain View, Calif.