Gmail doesn't need to leave a backdoor open for criminal authorities to monitor users, according to a new decision by the European Court of Justice.
For years, federal authorities such as the German Federal Network Agency or the French Autorité de régulation des activités ferroviaires (ARAF) have been fighting for Google Mail to be classified as a telecommunications service. The reason: Google would have to open its service for investigating authorities and set up interfaces for data access, for example.
Therefore, the European Court of Justice should now clarify whether e-mail services that run over the Internet but do not provide customers with Internet access themselves are considered telecommunications services under EU law. But after several instances it has now decided: Gmail will not be regarded as a telecommunications service in the future either, "because this service does not consist entirely or predominantly in the transmission of signals via electronic communications networks".
After this decision, a whole series of other companies, which offer so-called over-the-top services, i.e. communication services via the network, will probably also be able to breathe a sigh of relief. Because a judgement at the expense of Google would probably only have been the prelude for a whole series of further proceedings against various other services.
But the federal authorities are not only targeting Google's mail service. The chat service WhatsApp and its alternatives would also be better regulated. The standard end-to-end encrypted service, the chat content of which even WhatsApp itself cannot view, has long replaced SMS for most people. The latter, on the other hand, can be accessed by authorities with a judicial decision. However, Google will still have access to your e-mails and possibly third party providers as well.
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With around 1.4 billion users, Gmail is one of the most widely used email providers in the world, closely followed by Yahoo Mail and Hotmail from Microsoft.