Home / Blogs

A Copycat Canadian Privacy Suit Against Gmail

John Levine

In July, several people filed attempted class action suits against Google, on the peculiar theory that Gmail was spying on its own users' mail. One of the suits was in Federal court, the other two in California state court, but the complaints were nearly identical so we assume that they're coordinated.

Now we have a similar suit filed in provincial court in British Columbia, Canada.

The argument is very much the same: the aggrieved parties have no business relationship with Google, send mail to Gmail users, and are shocked and horrified that Google shows its users ads based on what's in the messages, which mean that Google must be reading its users' mail. Since this is a Canadian suit, it's based on the B.C. Privacy Act.

Although Canada has much stronger privacy laws than the U.S., this suit appears to me (a non-lawyer and non-Canadian) just as absurd as the U.S. suits, because the argument that a mail provider isn't allowed to look at its users' mail is still ridiculous. The B.C. privacy law says:

(2) An act or conduct is not a violation of privacy if any of the following applies:

(a) it is consented to by some person entitled to consent;

It seems pretty self-evident to me that Gmail users are allowed to consent to Gmail looking at their mail, and although Gmail's Terms & Privacy page is remarkably short on details about Gmail (as opposed to Google in general), there's enough in there to make it clear that Google can pick ads based on what the user is looking at.

Canadian courts, unlike U.S. courts, generally have a loser pays rule which means that there is much less incentive for a defendant to settle when a plaintiff has a weak case. Sometimes the lead plaintiff, the person who's supposed to be a typical representative of the class of plaintiffs, is personally on the hook for the costs, although that seems uncommon in B.C., Google has every incentive to squash this case like a bug, so the main question is how far it gets before that happens.

By John Levine, Author, Consultant & Speaker. More blog posts from John Levine can also be read here.

Related topics: Email, Law, Privacy

WEEKLY WRAP — Get CircleID's Weekly Summary Report by Email:

Comments

To post comments, please login or create an account.

Related Blogs

Related News

Topics

Industry Updates – Sponsored Posts

Non-English "IDN Email" Addresses Are Finally Working!

New from Verisign Labs - Measuring Privacy Disclosures in URL Query Strings

Verisign Named to the OTA's 2014 Online Trust Honor Roll

MarkMonitor Named a Top Trusted Website in OTA's 2013 Online Trust Honor Roll

A Look Inside Dyn's 1.2 Billion Monthly Email Delivery Statistics

INTA 2013: Gearing Up for Dallas

Dyn to Host Email Analytics Webinar With Ongage

Dyn Adds Claudia Santoro, Dave Connors and Andrew Sullivan to Technical Team

Dyn Receives $38M Investment from North Bridge

Thomson Reuters to Acquire MarkMonitor

Neustar Names Becky Burr as its Chief Privacy Officer

Afilias Says "No" to SOPA

Minds + Machines to Announce New .brand gTLD Pricing at INTA

Dyn Releases New Powerhouse in Enterprise Class Email Delivery

.CO Recognized Alongside Industry Giants in Trademark Industry Awards

Verisign and Coalition for ICANN Transparency, Inc. ("CFIT") Resolve Litigation

MarkMonitor to Co-Chair International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition Spring Conference

Global Company Leads the Pack as One of the First Microsoft Partners to Offer Exchange 2010

Q4 2010 Fraud Intelligence Report

AusRegistry Int. and Crowell & Moring Join Forces to Support New Top-Level Domain Applicants

Sponsored Topics

Afilias

DNSSEC

Sponsored by
Afilias
Minds + Machines

Top-Level Domains

Sponsored by
Minds + Machines
Verisign

Security

Sponsored by
Verisign
dotMobi

Mobile

Sponsored by
dotMobi