How Is Consumer Watchdog 'Helping' When It's Trying To Destroy Services Consumers Find Useful
from the get-away-from-my-email dept
A few weeks ago, we wrote about a troubling ruling by Judge Lucy Koh, in which she accepted the argument pushed by a group called Consumer Watchdog (which is basically an anti-Google organization focused on misrepresenting Google at every opportunity) that Google’s Gmail conducted some sort of illegal wiretap when its computers scanned incoming emails to put relevant ads next to it. As we noted, if having a computer scan your email is illegal wiretapping, then pretty much any anti-spam software is also an illegal wiretap. The whole concept is really ridiculous. If you send me a mail, you are granting permission for me to view that mail however I wish to view it — and if that includes reading it via Gmail and having its automated computers put ads next to it, then that’s the price you pay.
Unfortunately, with Judge Koh unwilling to recognize this basic concept, it’s now open season on email providers. A very similar lawsuit has now been filed against Yahoo, and I’m sure it won’t be the last one.
The whole situation is screwed up beyond belief. Eric Goldman’s comments on the original lawsuit against Google are completely on point here. Not only does this ruling show how totally screwed up ECPA (the Electronic Communications Privacy Act) is, but the whole thing may lead to making just about everyone a hell of a lot worse off. Goldman notes why Judge Koh’s ruling is almost certainly incorrect under the law: algorithmic processing of content isn’t considered interception under the law; the ruling could certainly apply to anti-spam/anti-virus/spell-checking services and more; email providers have been doing this for ages, so where’s the statute of limitations; and what actual harm was caused to people who had their email scanned?
But he concludes it with this plea for sanity to the likes of Consumer Watchdog:
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t take away my Gmail account. It has materially improved my life, and I hope and pray that I’m not downgraded into some second-rate email account due to this litigation.
Indeed. It leaves me wondering what “consumers” Consumer Watchdog is looking out for, because it’s not me, and it doesn’t appear to be the many many millions of people who use a variety of different webmail services quite happily — because it improves their lives. I don’t want a group (especially one prone to blatantly misrepresenting reality) to break email for me. That’s not being a watchdog, it’s being an authoritarian dipshit, arguing that millions of people around the world should be worse off because this one group thinks it knows best.