Gmail Goes to Court Over Its Gmail Ads

We’ve talked to some extent here at The Mission Suite about the new Gmail inbox and even about Google potentially violating its Gmail users privacy for the sake of placing targeted advertising in marketing emails.

Well, the hammer has finally dropped. Google has been brought to court for violating federal anti-wiretapping laws, among other things. A federal judge ruled recently that the litigation brought forward by nine plaintiffs was mostly valid, and decided that the lawsuit could proceed.

“We’re disappointed in this decision and are considering our options,” Google spokesman Matt Kallman said today after the decision was handed down.

Google had called for the lawsuit’s dismissal, arguing that the plaintiffs – and all Gmail users – had implicitly consented to the snooping for the sake of advertising when they agreed to Gmail’s terms of service. Federal judge Lucy Koh did not agree.

“Nothing in the policies suggests that Google intercepts email communication in transit between users, and in fact, the policies obscure Google’s intent to engage in such interceptions,” Koh declared.

Two of the claims brought by the plaintiffs were dismissed by Koh, but she allowed them the opportunity to refile the claims after gathering additional facts.

So What Does This Mean for Advertising by Email?

Gmail – being the heavyweight powerhouse of email providers these days – has a huge impact on advertising by email whenever they change a feature, or something more dire happens. There’s a good reason we’ve spent so much time talking about Gmail’s new tabs system: it will change the way almost two-thirds of people online interact with email.

So what does Gmail’s latest courtroom appearance mean for advertising by email? The answer: Nothing. Yet.

It’s still far too early to get concerned to the point where changing any strategies for advertising by email is justified. Instead, now is the time to focus on the implications this decision has for the entire email advertising and marketing industry.

Advertising by email is no stranger to regulation. Ever since its inception governments across the world have been instituting legislation to prevent spam and other malicious uses of email. Now that Gmail has developed an innovative (insidious?) new way to target consumers, the feds are trying to figure out what to do with it.

Sentiments towards “snooping” and “wiretapping” are all a little raw right now with the recent NSA leaks and ensuing revelations; so it’s no surprise that people were a bit up in arms upon learning Google was doing this. However, had this happened a year ago I firmly believe the outcry would be greatly reduced.

It will be interesting to see how the court case plays out, and savvy marketers will stay abreast of this situation as it may have a serious bearing on the future of advertising by email and Internet marketing as a whole.

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