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Songs on the Security of Networks
a blog by Michał "rysiek" Woźniak

Google Mail, or how mail becomes publication

This is an ancient post, published more than 4 years ago.
As such, it might not anymore reflect the views of the author or the state of the world. It is provided as historical record.

Have you ever spent a moment to read through Google Terms of Service? As Marcin “sirmacik” Karpezo pointed out interesting stipulations are present therein, basically two paragraphs – 11.1:

You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

And 11.2:

You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.

Let’s translate it from lawyerspeak, shall we? By agreeing to the Terms of Service (required to create an account), and then by “publishing” (gotta love the lingo!) anything through Google’s services, each and every User agrees to give Google – and its partners! – full rights to basically do whatever they feel like with the published data, free of charge and without asking any further.

And yes, those “published data” are all of your “confidential” Google Docs documents and all of your “private” GMail e-mails. Because, as we can read in the TOS, sending a private e-mail to a friend or a loved one is not “correspondence” – it’s a “publication”.

A publication that you give Google full rights to.