SAN JOSE, Calif. - Google's attorneys say their long-running practice of electronically scanning the contents of people's Gmail accounts to help sell ads is legal, and have asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit that seeks to stop the practice.

In a federal court hearing Thursday in San Jose, Google argued that "all users of email must necessarily expect that their emails will be subject to automated processing."

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of 10 individuals, is expected to be certified as a class action and is widely seen as a precedent-setting case for other email providers.

The plaintiffs say Google "unlawfully opens up, reads, and acquires the content of people's private email messages" in violation of California's privacy laws and federal wiretapping statutes. The lawsuit notes that the company even scans messages sent to any of the 425 million active Gmail users from non-Gmail users who never agreed to the company's terms.

"This company reads, on a daily basis, every email that's submitted, and when I say read, I mean looking at every word to determine meaning," said Texas attorney Sean Rommel, who is co-counsel suing Google.

And Rommel said "the data that's being amassed by this company" could be used for more than just targeting advertising, although the parts of the lawsuit discussing what more Google might be doing with private information is currently under seal.

"The injury is two-fold: the privacy invasion and the loss of property. Google is taking people's property because they can get it for free as opposed to paying for it," said Rommel.

Judge Lucy Koh said she would consider Google's request to terminate the case, but she said she is also interested in scheduling a trial for next year, indicating she is unlikely to dismiss. She did not say when she would decide.

Scrutinizing Google's privacy policy, Koh noted that it doesn't specify that Google is scanning Gmail when it describes the type of information it's collecting.

"Why wouldn't you just say 'the content of your emails?'" she asked.

Google attorney Whitty Somvichian said that the company is attempting to have a single privacy policy for all of its services, meaning it didn't separately reference every single product.

But he said it's "inconceivable" that someone using a Gmail account would not be aware that the information in their email would be known to Google.

Google has repeatedly described how it targets its advertising based on words that show up in Gmail messages. For example, the company says if someone has received a lot of messages about photography or cameras then it might display an advertisement from a local camera store. Google says the process is fully automated, "and no humans read your email..."

"Users, while they're using their Google Gmail account, have given Google the ability to use the emails they send and receive for providing that service," Somvichian said in court. "They have not assumed the risk that Google will disclose their information and they fully retain the right to delete their emails."

Privacy advocates have long questioned the practice, and were closely watching the lawsuit.

"In this Gmail case Google is trying to argue that its technology is exempt from privacy and wiretap laws. If they win, it will set a horrible precedent that they will try to apply to other Google technologies greatly threatening consumers' privacy rights," Consumer Watchdog Privacy Project director John Simpson said on Thursday.

Loading Slideshow...
  • 13. BMW

    <strong>Interbrand rank :</strong> 12<br> <strong>Number of employees:</strong> 102,007<br> <strong>Revenue:</strong> $88.4 billion<br> <strong>Net income:</strong> $6.3 billion<br> <br> BMW is a great company for business professionals, having been a top 15 desired employer in each of the past three years, according to Universum. The company is an even better workplace for aspiring engineers; BMW is the only non-tech company rated by Universum as one of the top-five desired workplaces for engineers. The BMW brand, one of the world’s most valuable, is “synonymous with class, performance and style,” according to Interbrand — qualities that likely make employees proud to work there. According to BrandZ, BMW is the most valuable car brand in the world. The company has also been extremely successful in recent months: unit sales in the third quarter of 2012 were up 9 percent year-over-year, leading to a growth of 16 percent in net profit compared to the year before. <br><br> Read more at <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/11/07/the-companies-everyone-wants-to-work-for/#ixzz2BjoaBVYY">24/7 Wall St. </a>

  • 12. L'Oreal

    <strong>Interbrand rank:</strong> 42<br> <strong>Number of employees:</strong> 68,900<br> <strong>Revenue: </strong>$26.1 billion<br> <strong>Net income:</strong> $4.2 billion<br><br> For the first nine months of 2012, L’Oréal reported a 10.9 percent sales growth from the same time period the year before. Discussing the company’s strong sales, Chairmen and CEO Jean-Paul Agon cited L’Oréal’s ability to innovate — an ability recognized by Thomson Reuters, which named the cosmetics company in its 2011 Top 100 Global Innovator report. Both Interbrand and BrandZ rank L’Oreal among the top 100 brands, meaning customers, too, appreciate the company’s products. Interbrand cited the company’s “dedication to research, innovation, and quality” as critical to its popularity. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recently warned the company about some of its newest beauty products, saying these so-called cosmeceuticals blur the line between drugs and cosmetics, at least in their marketing claims.<br><br> Read more at <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/11/07/the-companies-everyone-wants-to-work-for/#ixzz2BjxvaKXi">24/7 Wall St. </a>

  • 11. Apple

    <strong>Interbrand rank:</strong> 2<br> <strong>Number of employees:</strong> 72,800<br> <strong>Revenue: </strong>$156.5 billion<br> <strong>Net income: </strong>$41.7 billion<br><br> Apple connects with customers, and this is reflected in the company’s brand value. Interbrand rates Apple as the world’s second most valuable brand, behind only Coca-Cola, with a worth of over $76 billion. Apple has an even higher rating from BrandZ, which assesses the brand’s worth at almost $183 billion — by far the world’s most valuable. Apple’s employees also think highly of the company. According to Glassdoor, Apple is the 10th-best place to work in the U.S. based on employee reviews. The company is both successful and innovative. Its stock price has risen more than 200 percent in the last five years, largely on the success of iPhone and iPad. The company has also been unafraid to make the necessary changes to keep its workforce happy. For instance, retail head John Browett was asked to leave after just five months on the job because new staffing formulas cut employees’ hours too heavily.<br><br> Read more at <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/11/07/the-companies-everyone-wants-to-work-for/#ixzz2BjzKAyNU">24/7 Wall St. </a>

  • 10. Goldman Sachs

    <strong>Interbrand rank:</strong> 48<br> <strong>Number of employees:</strong> 32,600<br> <strong>Revenue: </strong>$36.8 billion<br> <strong>Net income:</strong> $4.4 billion<br><br> The image of Goldman Sachs has taken a hit in the last few years following several high- profile controversies. These included a Senate committee finding that the bank bet against collateralized-debt obligations it sold to clients, allegations that Goldman masked Greek debt, and a highly publicized resignation letter in the New York Times by now former executive Greg Smith. Still, the firm is generally regarded as the most prestigious on Wall Street. High compensation is certainly an appeal — of the largest banks, Goldman Sachs pays its employees the most. In the first six months of 2012, the company set aside $225,789 for each employee on average. Rival Morgan Stanley set aside $137,548 during that time, while J.P. Morgan investment bank set aside $184,989 for its staff. Goldman is also very exclusive. Almost 300,000 people applied for positions at the bank in 2010 and 2011, with a 4 percent acceptance rate, and the bank currently employs roughly 32,000 people.<br><br> Read more at <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/11/07/the-companies-everyone-wants-to-work-for/#ixzz2Bk1k4x9C">24/7 Wall St. </a>

  • 9. The Coca-Cola Company

    <strong>Interbrand rank: </strong>1<br> <strong>Number of employees:</strong> 146,200<br> <strong>Revenue:</strong> $46.5 billion<br> <strong>Net income: </strong>$8.6 billion<br><br> As a brand, Coca-Cola is so famous that its core product has become a synonym for soda. According to Interbrand, the Coca-Cola brand is worth almost $78 billion and has “a name that is more universally recognized than any other in the world.” In addition to its brand, Coke identifies its people as the second of its two core assets, helping the company innovate and develop new drinks, new packaging, and new equipment. Employees also benefit from a company that is both exceptionally large, with operations in over 200 countries, and stable — as demonstrated by 50 consecutive years of dividend growth through 2011.<br><br> Read more at <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/11/07/the-companies-everyone-wants-to-work-for/#ixzz2Bk3onElJ">24/7 Wall St. </a>

  • 8. JPMorgan Chase

    <strong>Interbrand rank:</strong> 32<br> <strong>Number of employees:</strong> 259,547<br> <strong>Revenue:</strong> $97.2 billion (net revenue)<br> <strong>Net income:</strong> $19.0 billion<br><br> J.P. Morgan was able, to a large extent, to avoid devastation from the downturn of the housing market, unlike rivals such as Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The firm has emerged stronger than ever. While banks drastically cut headcount in the years following the financial crisis, J.P. Morgan has expanded its ranks, although much of that has come from acquisitions. Between the end of fiscal 2008 and fiscal 2012, J.P. Morgan increased its headcount by 65,000. People hold the company in high regard as well. A recent survey of 3,500 Wall Street professionals conducted by Vault ranked J.P Morgan Investment Bank as the best investment bank to work at in North America, a position it held last year as well.<br><br> Read more at <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/11/07/the-companies-everyone-wants-to-work-for/#ixzz2Bk5Bb6wK">24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 7. PwC

    <strong>Interbrand rank:</strong> N/A<br> <strong>Number of employees: </strong>180,529<br> <strong>Revenue:</strong> $31.5 billion<br> <strong>Net income:</strong> N/A<br><br> In each of the last three years PwC, has been rated by Universum as one of the world’s most desired employers among business students. Fortune also ranks the professional services firm as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For. Among the reasons for PwC’s high ranking are the fully-paid sabbaticals and the mentoring program for expecting mothers. Employees also like working at PwC, which was named by Glassdoor as one of the 50 best places to work, as measured by employee reviews. The company, which provides auditing, assurance and tax services, among other offerings, has total revenues exceeding $31 billion.<br><br> Read more at <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/11/07/the-companies-everyone-wants-to-work-for/#ixzz2Bk5RFl1Z">24/7 Wall St. </a>

  • 6. Ernst & Young

    <strong>Interbrand rank:</strong> N/A<br> <strong>Number of employees:</strong> 167,000<br> <strong>Revenue:</strong> $24.4 billion<br> <strong>Net income:</strong> N/A<br><br> Ernst & Young is considered one of the Big Four accounting firms, but the company provides a whole host of services for a wide range of industries, including banking, oil and gas, technology, real estate and many others. Ernst & Young helps other companies meet its tax and regulatory requirements, but it also provides advisory services on strategy and raising capital, among others. The company has a presence in 140 different countries and has made considerable investments in emerging markets such as Brazil, China, India and parts of Africa. Forbes ranks Ernst & Young as The Best Accounting Firm to Work For in 2012, a survey that took into account both prestige and quality of life for employees.<br><br> Read more at <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/11/07/the-companies-everyone-wants-to-work-for/#ixzz2Bk6j7KUx">24/7 Wall St. </a>

  • 5. Deloitte

    <strong>Interbrand rank:</strong> N/A<br> <strong>Number of Employees: </strong>193,000<br> <strong>Revenue:</strong> $31.3 billion<br> <strong>Net income:</strong> N/A<br><br> In each of the past three years, Deloitte has been one of the top five desired employers according to Universum, making the consulting group one of just three companies to achieve this distinction. The firm, which provides consulting, audit, tax and risk management services to clients worldwide, employs over 56,000 people and has annual revenues exceeding $13 billion in the U.S. alone. According to Fortune, which rates Deloitte as one of its 100 Best Companies to Work For, the average pay for a Senior Consultant, the most common position at the company, is more than $86,000. The company has received accolades for military hiring, LGBT equality and women’s advancement.<br><br> Read more at <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/11/07/the-companies-everyone-wants-to-work-for/#ixzz2Bk7rH4DZ">24/7 Wall St. </a>

  • 4. Microsoft

    <strong>Interbrand rank:</strong> 5<br> <strong>Number of employees:</strong> 94,000<br> <strong>Revenue:</strong> $73.7 billion<br> <strong>Net income: </strong>$17.0 billion<br><br> Alongside Apple, Google and IBM, Microsoft is considered one of the top five brands in the world by both Interbrand and BrandZ. The company, which offers widely-used products such as Windows, Xbox, Skype and Microsoft Office, has been a top choice among business students in each of the past three years, according to Universum. Further, Microsoft has been listed in Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For each year since 1998, although the company ranked just 76th in Fortune’s 2012 report. Additionally, the company had a mediocre quarter to begin fiscal 2013. Revenue in the first quarter fell by 8 percent and operating income fell by 26 percent year-over-year, while earnings per share fell from 68 cents in the first quarter of fiscal 2012 to 53 cents in fiscal 2013. The company’s stock has risen by 13.8 percent in the last 12 months, about the same as the S&P 500 index.<br><br> Read more at <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/11/07/the-companies-everyone-wants-to-work-for/#ixzz2Bk8jLvHM">24/7 Wall St. </a>

  • 3. Procter & Gamble

    <strong>Interbrand rank:</strong> n/a<br> <strong>Number of employees:</strong> 126,000<br> <strong>Revenue:</strong> $83.7 billion<br> <strong>Net income:</strong> $10.8 billion <br><br> Procter & Gamble, the maker of household name products such as Crest toothpaste and Tide laundry detergent, has a host of job opportunities for business graduates in many of its departments. And P&G’s alumni have gone on to very successful careers. Prominent alumni include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, and Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman. But the largest consumer goods company in the world has had challenges recently. Profit has declined for the last several years, and the company announced in February it planned to slash 5,700 jobs over a four-year time frame as part of a plan to cut $10 billion in costs.<br><br> Read more at <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/11/07/the-companies-everyone-wants-to-work-for/#ixzz2BkB3CtZ1">24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 2. KPMG

    <strong>Interbrand rank:</strong> n/a<br> <strong>Number of employees:</strong> 145,000<br> <strong>Revenue:</strong> $22.7 billion<br> <strong>Net income:</strong> N/A<br><br> For the third consecutive year, KPMG was named by business students as the world’s second most desirable company to work for, according to Universum. Of this achievement, Chairman Michael Andrew noted that “attracting top students into our firms enables us to bring in the best talent, expertise and knowledge to our clients.” The company earned at least $20 billion in revenue in both fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2011 from its auditing , advisory, and tax services businesses. However, in its survey of top employers, Forbes ranks KPMG the lowest among the Big Four accounting firms.<br><br> Read more at <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/11/07/the-companies-everyone-wants-to-work-for/#ixzz2BkBZm8ja">24/7 Wall St. </a>

  • 1. Google

    <strong>Interbrand rank:</strong> 4<br> <strong>Number of employees:</strong> 53,546<br> <strong>Revenue:</strong> $37.9 billion<br> <strong>Net income:</strong> $9.7 billion<br><br> Google tops the list of the World’s Most Attractive Employers, a position the company has now held for the past four years. The company also ranks first on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For, and it isn’t hard to see why. Fortune points out that the company’s headquarters, dubbed the Googleplex, contains bocce courts, a bowling alley and 25 cafes company wide. “Employees are never more than 150 feet away from a well-stocked pantry,” one Google employee told the magazine. The company is also generally known for its laid-back corporate environment, with one of the company’s philosophies, “you can be serious without a suit.” Employees, even those not at the top, have also reaped financial success. Software engineers at Google were paid a base salary of $128,336 in 2012, well above the average of $92,648 for all software engineers. <br><br> Read more at <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/11/07/the-companies-everyone-wants-to-work-for/#ixzz2BkCMK3uU">24/7 Wall St. </a>