RNC sues Google claiming campaign emails being sent to spam folders
In response to a complaint filed with FCC last week, the RNC sued Google for allegedly failing to comply with the Commission’s request and for allegedly illegally intercepting RNC email in violation of the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA).
The RNC filed the complaint, which the commission posted on its website today, in the Eastern District of Virginia against Google in the wake of a letter from the FCC’s general counsel last week. The letter, penned by FCC Commissioner Meredith Baker, demanded that the FCC investigate how the company responds to allegations of illegal election-related activities and to cease all interference with lawful government activity.
Baker alleged that a Google customer “is intercepting and recording the political e-mails of political candidates and political parties as part of a Google program for monitoring the effectiveness of their campaigns,” and that Google “has unlawfully recorded and monitored the political emails of a number of political candidates and political bodies.” She further stated that Google “uses the records it has been intercepting to train its search algorithms on the content of the political e-mails… and is using the training it has been receiving to make determinations about how it ought to use and optimize the use of its search results relating to the political e-mails or on the basis of how it should conduct targeted advertising with respect to the political e-mails.” In addition, Baker alleges that Google’s practice in this regard “violates the privacy rights of the political parties and candidates, including the rights of a candidate to participate in and vote for a political party’s nominations and party conventions and to maintain privacy of its campaign materials.” The FCC general counsel is requesting that the Commission’s Enforcement Bureau conduct an investigation.
The RNC responded to the FCC’s request by stating that, among other things, it would not cooperate with the FCC until it receives a ruling from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
While the RNC’s suit is obviously not a response to allegations that the RNC has been the target of illegal election interference, it’s a clear sign that the Republican Party is looking to protect itself against the sort of interference that Google and other political communications companies are alleged to be engaging in. The lawsuit also serves as an implicit challenge to the FCC’s previous efforts to crack down on political surveillance by using tools like the one used by Google to track the RNC’s communications.
The RNC lawsuit against Google may be overblown, but