At Least According To The EU Court Of Justice
Word comes down this week via the EU Court Of Justice based in Luxemborg that Alpahabet’s popular Gmail service does not meet the definition of a telecommunications company, according to a June 13th ruling.
Google Basically Convinced The Top EU Court That Gmail Content Is None Of Their Business
The distinction is important to Google/Alphabet as a previous German Administrative Court decision ruled in favor of German telecom regulatory body that the Gmail service was subject to stricter telecom regulations, privacy protections, and even data sharing with law enforcement for certain court approved surveillance compliance requests. Google, who call Gmail a “Free Service”, but use Gmail to scan, track & monetize the content of user emails via advertising was obviously not keen on this idea, and found a loophole to get out of a potential regulatory trap.
This new favorable ruling for the massive Google/Alphabet and other providers of similar web based email messaging services can more or less ignore a vast array of data protection and security obligations that apply to telecommunications firms that operate in Germany. Despite the fact that Gmail even offers call from Gmail features, the EU Judges did not find Gmail was itself a hybrid telecommunications platform.
According to those who followed the case closely, the case hinged on a technicality, and that the EU court found “Gmail isn’t an “electronic communications service” under 2002 EU phone-industry rules. A panel of judges examined whether web-based email was a form of “conveyance of signals” that were to be regulated like traditional telephone transmissions. Gmail showed judges that they are not like a phone company because while Gmail involves the “transmission of signals”, the actual signals are transmitted via third party internet service providers, not technically from hardware or Google itself.