"The change comes as Google undergoes a lawsuit over its e-mail scanning, with the plaintiffs complaining that Google violated their privacy. E-mail users brought the lawsuit against Google in 2013, alleging that the company was violating wiretapping laws by scanning the content of e-mails. The plaintiffs' complaints vary, but some of the cases include people who sent their e-mails to Gmail users from non-Gmail accounts and nonetheless had their content scanned."
So, Gmail users should read the revised terms of service. Consumers who don't use Gmail should be aware that their e-mail messages are scanned when they send nessages to or received messages from friends, family, colleagues, and classmates who use Gmail. Is it right for people who don't use Gmail to have their e-mail messages scanned? Many people believe it isn't right, and that's one reason for the lawsuit.
It's important to note that you can't always tell when somebody you know uses Gmail. The Gmail.com domain in e-mail addresses is an indicator, but it isn't 100 percent accurate. Why? Gmail provides custom e-mail services to many schools and colleges. Last fall, I experienced this first hand when I took a class last fall at a local community college. During registration, the college required me to sign up for its e-mail service, a custom e-mail service provided by Gmail. My college e-mail address had the standard .EDU extension.
This is not new since Google and Microsoft have provided custom e-mail services for years, which saves money for cash-strapped schools. What's new is that you, or the students in your family, probably don't realize all of the instances when you communicate with somebody who uses Gmail.
The community college where I took my classes went a step further and provided this in its Computer Use Policy:
"7. Users of the College's Computer Network for electronic mail purposes should have no expectation of privacy. The College reserves the right to access or interrupt e-mail communications or transmissions for routine system maintenance, technical problems, criminal investigations, or in response to, and in compliance with, a request made under the Commonwealth's Public Records Laws."
Throughout most of my class, I used my personal e-mail address instead of my school e-mail address. Students and staff using custom e-mail services should closely read the terms and privacy policies provided by their education institution and e-mail vendor.
The tradeoff should be clear: give up all of your privacy and in return receive free e-mail services and relevant targeted ads based upon the contents of your e-mail messages. Is that a fair trade? What's your opinion of custom e-mail services? Of the lawsuit against Gmail?