Google Sued in Massachusetts for Scanning Emails Sent To Gmail Account

Published: Aug. 23, 2011

Updated: Oct. 05, 2020

A Massachusetts woman filed a class action suit in Mass. state court against Google on July 29, alleging that Google violated Massachusetts’ wiretap law by scanning messages she sent from her AOL account to recipients’ Gmail accounts. Massachusetts is one of several states that require all parties to give their consent to the interception or recording of communications (unlike federal law and the laws in a majority of states, which only require consent from one party to the communication). MGL Ch. 272 § 99(B)(4); § 99(C)(1).

Google uses automated technology to scan emails sent through the Gmail system to serve relevant advertisements to Gmail users. Users signing up for a Gmail account must consent to such scanning in order to register. In the complaint, the plaintiff stated that as a non-Gmail user, she never gave Google her consent to scan emails she sent to recipients with Gmail addresses, and that her “personal or property interests or privacy” were violated by Google’s automated email scanning. The plaintiff seeks the maximum damages allowable under the statute, including liquidated damages at a rate of $100 per day of violation or $1000 (whichever is higher), punitive damages, and attorney’s fees. MGL Ch. 272 § 99(Q)