Take, for example, the automated cars Google uses for its Street View application. Besides taking photos, the cars were geared to pick up all the wireless network communication data that crossed their path. An FCC investigation showed that the company knowingly deployed the surveillance program, and then analyzed and integrated the data that it had intercepted. But an even greater invasion of privacy is accomplished via Gmail.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center and others claim that Google does not restrict its email scanning activities solely to its registered user base, but intercepts and analyzes the private communication of anyone who exchanges emails with a Gmail user.
Levine has reviewed two patents filed by Google before releasing Gmail. The patents allow Google to construct user profiles based on:
- Concepts and topics discussed in email, as well as email attachments
- The content of websites that users have visited
- Demographic information — including income, sex, race, marital status
- Geographic information
- Psychographic information — personality type, values, attitudes, interests and lifestyle interests
- Previous searches users have made
- Information about documents a user viewed and or edited by the users
- Browsing activity
- Previous purchases
There is currently a class action lawsuit against Google asserting that the scanning of the messages violates state and federal anti-wiretapping laws.
Levine has written other articles about this issue.