Google location tracking + gmail lawsuit

Google’s settled the Buzz privacy lawsuit; OK, but not that interesting.

What’s interesting is that I received this email from Google, even though I’m a UK user of gmail (if this is TL;DR then just focus on the final paragraph):

Google rarely contacts Gmail users via email, but we are making an exception to let you know that we’ve reached a settlement in a lawsuit regarding Google Buzz (http://buzz.google.com), a service we launched within Gmail in February of this year.

Shortly after its launch, we heard from a number of people who were concerned about privacy. In addition, we were sued by a group of Buzz users and recently reached a settlement in this case.

The settlement acknowledges that we quickly changed the service to address users’ concerns. In addition, Google has committed $8.5 million to an independent fund, most of which will support organizations promoting privacy education and policy on the web. We will also do more to educate people about privacy controls specific to Buzz. The more people know about privacy online, the better their online experience will be.

Just to be clear, this is not a settlement in which people who use Gmail can file to receive compensation. Everyone in the U.S. who uses Gmail is included in the settlement, unless you personally decide to opt out before December 6, 2010. The Court will consider final approval of the agreement on January 31, 2011. This email is a summary of the settlement, and more detailed information and instructions approved by the court, including instructions about how to opt out, object, or comment, are available at http://www.BuzzClassAction.com.

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This mandatory announcement was sent to all Gmail users in the United States as part of a legal settlement and was authorized by the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

I’m a gmail user, but Google has clearly marked my account as UK-based.

I know this because my From address is “@googlemail.com” – due to a trademark lawsuit that Google lost a few years back in the UK, where a different firm holds the “gmail” trademark.

So … Google “knows” I’m UK based, yet I received this USA-targetted email. Coincidentally, I was physically in the USA when the email was sent.

I have all Google’s location-seeking stuff explicitly disabled, so is it co-incidence that Google sent me this? A mistake?

Or are they actively tracking the incoming IP addresses of every gmail user, and tracking their current country of origin that way, updating each time you check email?

One thought on “Google location tracking + gmail lawsuit

  1. Micha

    Actually, I received the same e-mail on my googlemail.com account and I was NOT outside of Germany during that time – which is where my account is registered. So, I suppose they mail was sent to all GMail/Buzz users.

    That said, most probably they use/store your GeoIP everytime you log into one of their services.. and so do others.

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