BOSTON (CN) – Google can offer gmail for free because it snoops on electronic messages that non-gmail accountholders send to people with accounts, and sells the information to use in targeted ads, a class action claims.
Lead plaintiff Debra Marquis says Google violates state wiretap law: specifically MGL c 272 § 99 (C)(1), the wiretap section the state law about “Crimes against Chastity, Morality, Decency and Good Order.”
Marquis says Google intercepted and snooped email from her AOL account to the personal accounts of gmail holders.
“Google touts Gmail as a ‘free’ service, but makes money from Gmail through selling advertising,” according to the complaint in Suffolk County Court.
The complaint continues: “Google intercepts, discloses or scans emails sent from non-Gmail users to Gmail users within the meaning of MGLC 272, §99(Q) [the Massachusetts Wiretapping Act], acquires keywords or content from non-Gmail users’ emails, and then sends ads related to those keywords or content. For an example, an email exchange between a Gmail user and a non-Gmail user about cars would result in Google sending an ad for a car manufacturer to that Gmail user.”
The class adds: “Google now uses a new advertising system dubbed ‘interest-based advertising.’ Instead of basing advertising off of keywords found in a single email, as it did originally, Google intercepts, discloses or scans numerous emails exchanged between Gmail users and non-Gmail users.”
Marquis says she has had an AOL account since the 1990s, and that “Google has used its proprietary technology to secretly intercept, disclose or scan emails that plaintiffs have exchanged with Gmail users.”
Marquis says “Google’s intentional, willful, and secret use of a device to intercept and use electronic communications for monetary gain without the consent of both parties violates MGLC 272 § 99(c)(1) and § 99(c)(3).”
Marquis seeks class certification and actual or statutory damages “at the rate of $100 per day for each day of violation or $1,000, whichever is higher,” and disgorgement of Google’s profits from its snooping.
She is represented by Jason Adkins with Adkins, Kelston & Zavez.