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The 28 organizations are voicing their concerns about Google’s plan to scan the text of all incoming messages for the purposes of ad placement, noting that the scanning of confidential email for inserting third party ad content violates the implicit trust of an email service provider.
Open Letter to Google to Suspend Gmail [privacyrights.org]
Looking back, it's nice to see how much progress has been made in a year--now you hear about all sorts of companies that are trying to develop technology to do contextual ad targeting. So starting Gmail out with a smaller beta launch is probably a good way to get good feedback, improve our system, but also begin that education process. So Gmail is hopefully something that will appeal to lots of people. I know that I've heard from a lot of school friends asking about getting an account. Easy search and lots of storage seems to really resonate with the people that I've talked to.
There's several other nice features, e.g. it can offer related web pages for emails along the right-hand side too.
as shown in this screen shot on your references blog:
I think that should get some more attention on: [gmail.google.com...]
has a more positive touch to it..
Will we be able to use Gmail search on the attachments as well?
[edited by: vitaplease at 6:39 pm (utc) on April 8, 2004]
GG, I am afraid that I have to disagree as I see a major difference between a private email and posting in a public forum. (Generally my mails are to people I know well, I haven't a clue who will read my anonymous post in a forum so you can't compare the two ).
Anyway,for one thing in a forum, I would be able to see the advertizing generated by my post (however if I haven't signed up for gmail I would not know this so what I wrote is being used in a way I have no knowledge of or control over).
In fact, in many fora, once I post my content is the property of the forum and I understand that.
You say that the benefit of being able to talk for free..outweighs the fact that the forum might show banner ads" but if I post to the forum I am benefitting from the forum (as I am benefitting from this forum) but if I send you a mail from a non-gmail account, I don't really feel that I am benefitting in the same way. Either way you have different expectations when posting in a forum from those I have when sending a mail. It would never have occurred to me that my content would be used for advertizing for a third party.That probably sounds naive, but that is one of the reasons why I think that the ads should only be shown on mails from a gmail user to a gmail user (as I outlined in another rambling mail detailing my concerns about targetted advertizing and how I think Google should give people a button to choose whether they see ads or not). I don't think this will convince you as to why I see the email issue and targetted advertizing the way I do, but at least you have given me your view and I have given you mine.
I do feel a line is being crossed with something that is very dear to me but it is very hard for me to articulate this so I can't blame you or Google in general if you don't see this.
With Kindest Regards
But what if people receive UCE (Google won't be able to filter them 100%) and what if the user sees AdSense ads within these spam messages targeted to their content (from v*agra to m*rtgage) - don't you think that this could backfire ...? Google Ads as part of UCE messages (unintentionally) - there may be people who don't understand that ... or is there already a solution for this?
[edited by: Yidaki at 6:56 pm (utc) on April 8, 2004]
You can't compare message boards and targeted SE ads to indexing and storing email correspondence, google isn't evil, but I don't think they have any special dispensation to define what is right and wrong, every legitimate privacy advocate on the planet has problems with this service, and then ya get the "paranoid poster" bit...lol
The only problem I see with google is that they are beginning to believe their own press; "don't do evil"...er how many companies could lay legitimate claim to that statement; try about 99% of them, that doesn't give a license to test the bounds of well established social restraints.
>> I think of the situation as akin to posting on a forum that displays ads
A comparison of Gmail with a forum post is not a good one. Forums are in the public domain and anyone posting there expects to have their writing read by many people. An email does not fit this model at all. I wouldn't write some things that I put in emails on a public forum, nor do I want them analysed for someone else's profit. The Adsense comparison is also misleading.
>>In the case of Gmail, the main page at www.gmail.com makes it quite clear that instead of banner ads or pop-ups, we'll show text ads, with a link into the FAQ that gives more information.
Google are asking people to sacrifice privacy in order for a good email service, and covering this in your terms and conditions really doesn't change that fact. That the general public are willing to do this is evidenced by similar services, and I'm sure that Gmail will be popular.
But that doesn't change the fact that our crucial rights to privacy should not be hijacked by companies whose aim is to profit from exploiting those rights.
>>now you hear about all sorts of companies that are trying to develop technology to do contextual ad targeting
Indeed. It is telling that the dangerous precedent Google are attempting to set is likely to be taken up by other companies, some of whom will doubtless try and push this further.
"Indeed. It is telling that the dangerous precedent Google are attempting to set is likely to be taken up by other companies, some of whom will doubtless try and push this further."
pixel_juice, I was talking about AdSense when I said that other companies were working on contextual targeting. Do you dislike AdSense?
Google are asking people to sacrifice privacy
pixel_juice, How exactly are you sacrificing your privacy by using Gmail rather than other popular web-based free email services?
*Is it some borg reading your email scanning for keywords and publishing text ads?
*Or is that one can scan your email to "protect" you from spam, but it's evil to use the same technology to provide you with economically-feasible better features and storage?
*Or is something more complicated like profiling etc?
IMO whether or not other services are better or worse than Google is not relevant to this discussion.
>>*Is it some borg reading your email scanning for keywords and publishing text ads?
>>*Or is that one can scan your email to "protect" you from spam, but it's evil to use the same technology to provide you with economically-feasible better features and storage?
Besides the fact that most spam filtering is optional and benevolent, scanning email content for the purpose of advertiser profit (who incidentally, will then know what words in your email triggered the ad) is not comparable to blocking unwanted or malicious content.I don't mind an airport scanning my bags to make sure I'm not carrying weapons, but I would be distinctly unimpressed if they wanted to root through my belongings so they knew what to sell me in the gift shop.
*Or is something more complicated like profiling etc?
Profiling is the inevitable final destination of Google's decision to ask users to accept this invasion of their privacy (the combination of Google's user search histories and their email accounts is a potent one). But that is also irrelevant. The Gmail system is in itself unacceptable from a consumer privacy point of view. The future uses of this are likely to be even more unacceptable (perhaps so that some of those who don't place any importance on personal privacy might even take notice) but hey Google are going to be soft and fluffy and trustworthy forever, right?
>>pixel_juice, I was talking about AdSense when I said that other companies were working on contextual targeting. Do you dislike AdSense?
...and I was talking Gmail and the likelihood that other companies will take Google's lead there too. I'm sure you know that whether or not I like I Adsense is nothing to do with this thread (if you must know I'm indifferent from both a surfer and advertiser perspective), although it's interesting you brought it up.
>>IMO whether or not other services are better or worse than Google is not relevant to this discussion.
Well, all i am saying is that, Gmail is not inherently worse in abusing privacy than other similar services. So, you need a benchmark of accepted thresholds to compare. I am not getting into the reign of "is email a truly private conversation" thing here. Just that, these exploded concerns of privacy is unwarranted and overblown, given that similar predecents exist and are freely accepted by general mass/media.
>>you are asked to grant access to them
Dont other providers do that? How do you think someone can check for spam in your email or correct spellings, as you type.
>>most spam filtering is optional and benevolent
In other major web-based email providers, it is not optional. Yup, it is benevolent. On the same token, Gmail is benevolent since you get more features etc. Though not readily apparent.
>>scanning email content for the purpose of advertiser profit (who incidentally, will then know what words in your email triggered the ad) is not comparable to blocking unwanted or malicious content.
It also includes the purpose of providing with more storage/features. If you were to believe in "free lunches", we are talking two different things.
All said, i completely understand your concerns, and my initial reaction was something similiar to yours. And thanks for explaining them very well.
And if you truly want email privacy, you shouldn't be using any of the web-based emails nor send emails to any web-based email accounts.
Some good points and I agree with PBG that having your email scanned, particularly if you are not a GMail member, would be disconcerting. A non member has not signed on to being mind melded.
Receiving a GMail with ads would not annoy me, but I would have to respond with a phone call or PGP letter if I wanted privacy. Perhaps, privacy.
Technically, everyone from the ISP down the line has at least temporary possession of my information. What it does with that (and who else can leagally access it) is the issue and the source of any legal obligation. The integration of many databases will soon mean I won't need a daytimer to know where I've been, where I bought the viagra, what I had for lunch yesterday, who I talked to...and what I said. I'll just Google myself (or search Homeland Security?) and get it back with Webcam and satellite pictures....<groan>. Gee, hope my activities aren't misinterpreted by someone wearing a flak jacket...
You can't blame Google for using available tools. Email has not been couched in the protections that USPS carries. This is all about legislation - and this gov't is interested in privacy only for itself - as are most.
Email the politians and support privacy groups for protection of email?
Good point, and it looks like folks who will be "profiled" will be the senders, doesn't sound like they have any opt in opportunity at all.
You sell a widget to Ghead@gmail .com, auto reply kicks in with an order verification:
Thanks Ghead for buying our deluxe widget for $12.99.
Gmail spits out an ad for deluxe widgets at $9.99
uh oh, whats a Ghead to do?
>> these exploded concerns of privacy is unwarranted and overblown, given that similar predecents exist and are freely accepted by general mass/media.
There are two reasons why I personally have reacted strongly in this instance:
1) Google have spent a great deal of time trying to preserve their public image as a trustworthy and honest company. It's important to them, so when they do things that appear to be at odds with that, they deserve to take flak for it. I don't think the same applies to Yahoo or Microsoft.
2) Google's reaction to legitimate privacy concerns has IMO been at best wholly inadequate. In terms of this thread, I haven't seen a single word from GoogleGuy that so much as represents an admission that a privacy issue even exists.
And if there is no privacy issue, it's interesting that some people have already chosen to reject emails sent through Gmail - [webmasterworld.com...]
I feel the very same. PR dept of G needs some air. :)
A search on Google News for "gmail" gives me creeps. Thankfully, I still hold to my sense, when outcrys from one person forum like worldprivacyforum reach farther than me.
Maybe i should start myself InterGalaticUniversalPrivacyProtectionArmyForOnlineVictims :) lol
I am not too worried about privacy in general, but Google is creating an exploit. Not just a privacy issue. Heck I'd not care if Google empoyees personally read my mails, I care that they allow others to target messages in the form of ads to all emails sent to a Gmail account.
Email is private but because they will read and serve ads to the user the inherent privacy is breached.
Even if this is aimed at being "useful" the conflating of a private medium with contextual advertising creates a disconnect.
It's going to be pretty easy to target Gmail users with spoof login pages. In the past if one wanted to spoof paypal they'd have to send it out to random addresses. Now with the contextual advertising miscreants will be able to target their messages with the actual email.
So for example, knowing what standard text is in a Webmasterworld notification someone could target these emails and direct them to a page where a webmaster world login is spoofed.
I'm disconcerned about privacy in general, and frankly I think Google will make a killing on this despite the privacy concerns.
But GoogleGuy's analogies aside, this is not the equivalent of AdSense on a forum. Email is a private medium and to some degree contextual advertising is giving both advertisers and anyone else who wants to try, a window into elements of the email. Be it through the ability to deliver a targeted message with anticipated email or through the ability to capture visits from anticipated emails.
Just monetizing OPC (other peoples content). No technical breakthrough here, just a bonehead attempt to "break in" with a few years of goodwill. Watch that goodwill guys, I remember Alexa was never the same after it took the big toolbar/privacy hit.
It can happen again.
I'm not concerned that Google will be keeping tabs on me, I am concerned with the technological implications of opening what is considered to be a private medium to advertisers that Google retains little control over.
Edit: I agree with a lot of the sentiment on the web that this is going to help take off Google's halo. Valid or not the privacy concerns will bother some. And the resentment of Google will grow.
Google's not an operating system, Google should be concerned about the bad PR they have been getting.
>Just monetizing OPC (other peoples content).
This goes beyond bizarre and surreal.
This is a SERP perp forum. Basically nobody here generates content; everyone is trying to either (1) monetize other people's retail catalog content, or (2) monetize the deliberate manipulation of other people's search engine content.
I'm somewhat of an outsider: I actually generate content and give it away: I know about attempts to monetize some of it; I don't know how successful they've been.
But if I send e-mail FROM gmail, no ads are added. This makes it different and better than hotmail, netscape mail, etc. My content is NOT monetized.
And if I receive e-mail AT gmail, no banner ads are shown. This makes it different and better than any scheme that shows banner ads, which, as googleguy mentions, are a GENUINE, actual, real, currently implemented privacy threat.
Now, it shows texts ads based on text content. OK, that's a potential privacy issue. But, and this is the critical issue, how is that different from any other e-mail server or transport mechanism on planet earth? They ALL have exactly the same potential! Every one. Without exception. All. So why is Microsoft paying all its shills to come out and specifically attack Google so vigorously, when all Google is doing is planning to compete with Microsoft by producing a better product?
Summary. Google has proposed to eliminate one major real privacy issue (e-mail tracking via banner ads) and eliminated one major form of monetizing e-mail content (addition of ads to e-mail text). And Google has sped up e-mail viewing by replacing bandwidth-hogging ad banners with HTML text ads.
But no, the simple fact that every other mail server has at least all these privacy issues and more is not relevant. What's relevant to this discussion is that Google search saves a cookie on your machine (if you let it!) That's the second most idiotic ad-hominem argument I've heard today (alright, it's not been a good week for the Committee to Promote Rigorous Standards of Logic).
Gmail, so far as can be seen by the evidence so far, is a win-win situation for everybody on planet earth except e-mail spammers, privacy violators, and Microsoft. It is really a big threat to Hotmail (whose proclivity to spam messages is legendary); much less so to AOL (because their main e-mail customers are their ISP customers. E-mail is a probably cost center for them; I could even see them contracting e-mail out to Google.)
Sorry, I try to stay "in the lines" when it comes to bizarre and surreal. :)
>So why is Microsoft paying all its shills to come out and specifically attack Google so vigorously
Well, it would appear that google has a whole bunch of free shills. ;)
[edited by: john316 at 9:25 pm (utc) on April 8, 2004]
This is a common argument in this thread but I still fail to see it's relevance. AFAIK granting access to email content for the purpose of targeting adverts is (although not unprecendented) a pretty new thing as far as email services go.
>>What's relevant to this discussion is that Google search saves a cookie on your machine (if you let it!)
Why not trivialise all of the privacy issues surrounding Google and it's suppliers? We're in safe hands after all!
>>So why is Microsoft paying all its shills to come out and specifically attack Google so vigorously
Perhaps the same reason that the 'google can do no wrong' crowd are also present in numbers?
>>This is a SERP perp forum. Basically nobody here generates content; everyone is trying to either (1) monetize other people's retail catalog content, or (2) monetize the deliberate manipulation of other people's search engine content.
I'm unsure of the relevance of generalisation and assumptions about the people posting here.
Personally I would appreciate some transparency from Google about their uses and proposed uses of user-data. Their lack of enthusiasm for this subject is doing them more harm than good.
This won't be settled on a web forum. Hopefully GG appreciates the feedback and shares it with the powers that be.
Folks normally don't get the whole story, it will most likely just get translated into "google invades privacy, google bad"; we know thats not true, but no one here makes money on the web by over estimating Joe surfer. ;)
As far as the "privicy groups" are concerned, most of them are more concerned about their public image, than about peoples' privicy.