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Slate Article on Gmail by Paul Boutin
Scarecrow




msg:1553267
 9:22 pm on Apr 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

Paul Boutin has a defense of Gmail at Slate [slate.msn.com].

"I called Google co-founder Sergey Brin about this and got a half-encouraging response. Gmail's ad server, he says, doesn't collect any info on which ads it serves to which specific users, nor does it record users' browser cookies or IP addresses. There's a twofold benefit to that. Advertisers can't get reports on who saw what, Brin says, and Google won't have personal data about your ad viewing to hand over to the Man, should a subpoena or warrant be served."

Mr. Boutin got snookered by Sergey.

1. The ad server is distinct from the email server, so whatever Sergey Brin says about the ad server does not apply to the email server.

2. The email server definitely reads your browser cookie. They state in their privacy policy for Gmail that they use a single cookie for all of their various services. There's no need for the ad server to read the cookie. The email server will most likely have some profiling parameters on file to better understand the context of any email that comes in. This is just about the only way they can improve the targeting for the ads, since the content of most emails is too brief otherwise. I'm not impressed when Sergey argues that information will not be available to advertisers in a personally-identifiable form. The point is that they're keeping personally-identifiable information at Google Inc., they're maintaining it, they're expanding it, they'll probably never, ever erase it even if you close down your Gmail account, and they clearly haven't even decided yet whether they'll correlate it with your long history of search terms from your past several years of using Google.

3. Mr. Boutin didn't even mention the fact that Google has no data retention policy for deleted email, or for email on a closed account. How long will these emails be accessible? I don't care if they're on clusters somewhere on some hard disk. What I care about is whether they're accessible by anyone or anything at Google. This a primarily a matter of corporate policy, and only secondarily a technical issue.

4. Why would Google hand over your ad viewing behavior to the feds, when they can and will -- under subpoena, as explicitly declared in their privacy policy -- hand over the entire contents of your email?

Sergey set up a straw man and then Mr. Boutin tried, unsuccessfully, to knock him down.

 

jcoronella




msg:1553268
 10:13 pm on Apr 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

4. Why would Google hand over your ad viewing behavior to the feds, when they can and will -- under subpoena, as explicitly declared in their privacy policy -- hand over the entire contents of your email?

Which is no different than any other email service, free or paid.

bcolflesh




msg:1553269
 10:18 pm on Apr 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

Which is no different than any other email service, free or paid...

...in the United States - elsewhere, there are plenty that won't.

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