Do you have an expectation of privacy when using email?

Gmail en OME
Photo by Mario Antonio Pena Zapatería via Flickr

People who use Gmail and other free email systems have no reasonable expectation of privacy, according to papers filed in a U.S. district court by lawyers for Google. The filing was made in June, when Google moved to dismiss a case accusing it of breaking federal and state laws by scanning users’ emails to help target its advertising campaigns, writes NPR blogger Bill Chappell.

In making its case, Google compared sending an email to other types of communications where privacy cannot be expected:

“Just as a sender of a letter to a business colleague cannot be surprised that the recipient’s assistant opens the letter, people who use web-based email today cannot be surprised if their communications are processed by the recipient’s ECS provider in the course of delivery. Indeed, ‘a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.’ Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735, 743-44 (1979).”

The company’s attorneys said those same expectations would also hold for any non-Gmail users who send a message to a Gmail address. And it says that anyone sending an email is essentially giving their implied consent to automatic processing.

Today’s Question: Do you have an expectation of privacy when using email?