The California state senate has approved Liz Figueroa’s email privacy bill, with some revision. “My legislation guarantees that our most private communications will remain just that – private,” said Senator Figueroa.
The bill was revised at the last minute – it originally required ISPs to seek permission before scanning emails. As it stands, e-mail and instant messaging providers can scan emails to build a profile for delivering adverts, but must abide by strict limits on how the data is used. The data cannot be shared, kept or shown to a “natural person”. We take this to mean that humans are not allowed to peek at your mail, but bots can. GMail now has to permanently delete any email at the request of a subscriber.
Anti-spam and virus filtering are covered in the bill, and as this is done automatically by software agents, it has never really been a privacy issue.