Google has come under fire after admitting that it scans the content of incoming Gmail messages from users on third-party service providers, and cannot promise confidentiality.
The web giant has filed a motion to dismiss a US lawsuit that claims the firm has violated privacy laws by serving tailored adverts based on the contents of emails, The Guardian reports. The firm has also moved to assure users that it takes their security seriously.
“While the non-Gmail plaintiffs are not bound to Google’s contractual terms, they nonetheless impliedly consent to Google’s practices by virtue of the fact that all users of email must necessarily expect that their emails will be subject to automated processing,” argued Google in its defense.
The company is facing a landmark group legal action by Britons angry over the way it circumvented settings on the iPhone to track their web usage. Google has already been fined a record $22.5m (£14.4m) by authorities in the United States over the practice. Read more Google argues UK privacy laws do not apply
In a submission to the High Court, however, Google has argued that as an American company it is not covered by British privacy laws. It said there was “no jurisdiction” for the case to be heard here because its consumer services are provided by Google Inc, based in Silicon Valley, rather than Google UK.
The move raises questions about the rights of millions of British internet users who rely on Google for basic services such as web search and email. Its rivals, such as Facebook and Microsoft, provide their consumer web services through European subsidiaries so could not make the same jurisdictional argument.
The claimants said it showed Google’s policies “don’t respect” British privacy laws and compared its stance to its controversial avoidance of UK corporation tax.
Claimant Marc Bradshaw said: “It seems absurd to suggest that consumers can’t bring a claim against a company which is operating in the UK and is even constructing a $1bn headquarters in London.”