updated 08:44 am EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
New paragraph specifically advises of content scanning on Google services
Google has updated its terms of service, adding an explanation for its content scanning efforts. The new paragraph, one of relatively few changes to the document, specifically notes that Google scans e-mails in order to provide "personally relevant product features," including "customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection."
The paragraph continues to advise that analysis of the user's data "occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored." Spokesperson Matt Kallman told Reuters the changes "will give people even greater clarity and are based on feedback we've received over the last few months."
The change to the document may have been prompted by lawsuits claiming Google betrayed the privacy of Gmail users with its scanning. Last month, US District Judge Lucy Koh refused to combine multiple cases into a single class action lawsuit, reports CNET, with Koh writing that user content was the main focus of the suit and should be litigated individually.
Last August, a filing from Google for one such lawsuit claims that "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 e-mail today cannot be surprised if their communications are processed by the recipient's ECS provider in the course of delivery." The company reasoned "a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties."