Google accused of illegally spying on student emails

Students who use Google’s Apps for Education are accusing the company of violating the Wiretap Act, which prohibits the interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications. A group of nine plaintiffs hopes to turn the case into a class action suit. Institutions of higher education and K-12 schools throughout the world use Apps for Education for free online applications such as email, calendar, word processing, spreadsheet and collaborative document sharing.

As part of a potentially explosive lawsuit making its way through federal court, giant online-services provider Google has acknowledged scanning the contents of millions of email messages sent and received by student users of the company’s Apps for Education tool suite for schools. In the suit, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company also faces accusations from plaintiffs that it went further, crossing a “creepy line” by using information gleaned from the scans to build “surreptitious” profiles of Apps for Education users that could be used for such purposes as targeted advertising. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California is currently hearing the complaint, which alleges that the data-mining practices behind Google’s Gmail electronic-messaging service violate federal and state wiretap and privacy laws. 

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