April 21, 2004

Google Gmail Bill Now In CA Senate

[Scoop? I don't see this anywhere I've searched.]

The Google Gmail legislation proposed by California State Senator Liz Figueroa has now been formally introduced and released.

Link to Liz Figueroa press release:


SACRAMENTO - Responding to a world-wide outcry from privacy advocates, Senator Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont) today introduced a bill that would forbid Google from secretly scanning the actual content of e-mails for the purpose of placing targeted direct marketing ads. Instead, the Internet giant would be required to obtain the informed consent of every individual whose e-mails would be "oogled."

Link to text of Google Gmail legislation: http://democrats.sen.ca.gov/servlet/gov.ca.senate.democrats.pub.members.memDisplayBillDetail?district=sd10&bill_number=sb_1822&sess=CUR&house=B&site=

[Update 4/22 5:25pm Note there's some sort of legislative maneuver being used here, by modifying an older bill. Make sure to follow the "Amended" link above.]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on April 21, 2004 10:53 PM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
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Maybe a scoop, if the press release's "4/21/2004 [...] today introduced a bill" is more accurate/up to date than the status page's http://info.sen.ca.gov/pub/bill/sen/sb_1801-1850/sb_1822_bill_20040420_status.html "04/20/2004 [...] Re-referred to committee." Or maybe introduced and re-referred are the same thing .

It might be expected from the press release :-

"Instead, the Internet giant would be required to obtain the informed consent of every individual whose e-mails would be "oogled."
But those who send e-mails to Gmail subscribers from elsewhere (like Earthlink or Yahoo!) will not be asked for their consent before the whole e-mail conversation is analyzed.
Figueroa?s SB 1822 would forbid the review of e-mail content unless Google (or any other e-mail provider) first obtains the consent of all the parties to an e-mail conversation."

... that obtaining permission from those who send e-mails to Gmail subscribers from elsewhere ("like Earthlink or Yahoo!") would be sufficient to allow scanning of such e-mails to create contextual adverts.

But in fact the bill as drafted simply bans scanning (except anti-spam, AV, etc) of other subscribers' incoming emails, with or without their permission. Non-subscribers have no choice in the matter :-

"The bill would permit a provider [...] to review and evaluate the content of incoming e-mail or instant messages only from *another subscriber to the same service* and only when that subscriber has consented to the procedure."

[*my emphasis*]

Since same-service subscribers would presumably have to consent (both directions) on signup, the bill would simply require Google (and others who follow) to only scan emails (incoming or outgoing/sent) from their own subscribers.

Is that technically possible?

What about when Gmail subscribers reply to non-subscribers' emails, quoting them in full (hey, snipping may become redundant with 1GB to play with ;)? Are the non-subscribers now/still "parties to an e-mail conversation" re those messages?

What about the subscribers' own emails, forwarded from other their email providers, or imported from a local archive, and thus not distinguished (to the scanner) by a Gmail address From: header?

An easy bill to write: trickier to implement.

Contextual advert scanning is a sideshow, anyway - the real meat is with wider issues, as outlined by
Brad Templeton :-


Posted by: Milly at April 22, 2004 11:44 AM

This is the biggest load of crap i have ever seen! Google will obviously have a disclamer or terms of agreement along with their service, that will undoubtably include the fact that a COMPUTER is scanning their e-mails for specific words that trigger side-bar advertisements. Why in the heck is ledislation needed? Forgive my ignorance if I have overlooked anything legal or otherwise.

Posted by: David Richter at May 28, 2004 11:36 AM

There is another side: This bill only alows access to the content of emails when "removing spam or for managing computer viruses or other
malicious programs."

But what about a "search" feature? That invloves scanning the contents of the emails, but has noting to do with "malicious" activities.

Even current email services support this, so they too would be outlawed.


Posted by: Douglas at June 3, 2004 01:40 PM