Canadian Sues Google for Intercepting and Using Personal Information Through Gmail

A retiree living on the Sunshine Coast in BC has filed a class action lawsuit against Google. Wayne Plimmer alleges that Google’s Gmail service “intercepts, obtains and uses personal information it collections from emails sent to Gmail users.”

The Sechelt resident has one big hole in his lawsuit: Gmail users can only use the service after consenting to Google’s terms of service, which in no uncertain manner explain that the company may use algorithms to scan emails for the purpose of ad targeting.

However, the twist here is that Wayne doesn’t actually use Gmail – his argument, instead, is that his non-Gmail emails that he sends to Gmail accounts are being intercepted. The lawsuit suggests that Google infringes on the email senders’ copyright, as well as solicitor-client, physician-patient, priest-penitent and journalist-source privileges.

Wayne’s lawsuit is on behalf of “all persons in the province of British Columbia who have sent email to a Gmail account.” He asks that Google be stopped from intercepting any emails sent from British Columbia. He also demands statutory damages for breach of copyright amounting to $500 per email.

The lawsuit requests that Google delete “any and all” emails sent by members of the lawsuit. Google has 35 days to respond.

But despite the twist, some still dismiss this lawsuit as bogus. Law professor Eric Goldman for one describes Wayne’s filing as an “are-you-kidding-me” lawsuit, telling the Calgary Herald that, “if electronic scrutiny of private email constitutes an interception then all anti-spam software violates that as well … the same probably with virus checkers.”

“In the US, I consider similar lawsuits to be dead on arrival,” Goldman added. “They have no merit.”

Eric also points out that “Google isn’t manually reading these, a machine is reading them. It is about whether the law cares if a machine has scrutinized private communications and if that scrutiny constitutes a violation of privacy.”