The internet and media are ablaze today with claims that Google Gmail users have no expectation of privacy. Sadly, that is a wildly misinterpreted statement by the major new sources. According to an article posted last night on The Verge, Google's case isn't about Gmail users at all, rather users of other email systems that have never signed Google's Terms of Service. Here is a clip (notice the word Non-Gmail in bold) from the 39 page document:
From there, Google's argument starts broadly and moves towards the specific — that's where the "a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties" line comes in. That's a quote from the 1979 Supreme Court case Smith v. Maryland, in which the court upheld what's called the "third-party doctrine," saying that once you involve a third party in communication, you lose legally enforceable privacy rights. (This is an extremely controversial notion, but for right now, it's the law.) Google's argument is that people who email Gmail users are necessarily involving Gmail's servers in the mix, kicking the third-party doctrine into effect. This is pretty basic stuff.You can read the full article here or the case here.
Google Apps for Ed - You're Secure and Private
Another reason not to worry: The Google Apps for Education does not scan education account emails to comply with FERPA privacy: