| 10:00 pm on Apr 8, 2004 (gmt 0)|
I'm not calling anyone an idiot. My only point is that you shouldn't expect much privacy when using a web-based email service. If you have something that's that private to say to someone, do it over the phone where the privacy laws are better defined.
But really, I don't understand the problem. It's not like a human is reading your email. A computer is looking at it to find keywords with which to generate ads.
Even if you say that they *might* read your private email to find out how their computer is doing at its job, hell, anyone at any web based email company can already do that if they want to.
We should be rejoicing; it would be nice to get ads for things I actually might want to see ads about.
The next step, of course, is ads based on the context of your IM conversations. Surprised that hasn't happened yet.
| 10:01 pm on Apr 8, 2004 (gmt 0)|
Ya, there is a creepy factor to the process. However, it is about time someone woke the net up to how insecure email is to begin with.
Lets hope this is the start of a push towards encrypted public key email.
| 10:05 pm on Apr 8, 2004 (gmt 0)|
|I remember Alexa was never the same after it took the big toolbar/privacy hit. |
You mean the toolbar people choose to install?
Get back to work, people.
| 10:30 pm on Apr 8, 2004 (gmt 0)|
>>you shouldn't expect much privacy when using a web-based email service
This is of course true, but it is surely still a worthwhile exercise to voice concerns about the next encroachment on people's privacy?
>>If you have something that's that private to say to someone, do it over the phone where the privacy laws are better defined.
Even if it is an issue of definition, of knowing the ground you are on, I still find it unacceptable for a company to expect to just get away with something like Gmail.
|>>I remember Alexa was never the same after it took the big toolbar/privacy hit. |
You mean the toolbar people choose to install?
Get back to work, people.
What spoils the toolbar people's day now is likely to be spoiling one of my days in the future. And maybe one of yours too.
| 10:32 pm on Apr 8, 2004 (gmt 0)|
Of course we wouldn't want to treat people like idiots by glossing over the fact that the content of your account remains behind long after you have closed it and no longer have the ability to recieve text based targeted advertisements.
You can't sell this thing as simple ad delivery.
| 10:38 pm on Apr 8, 2004 (gmt 0)|
I have heard a good "buzz" about this from the file sharing community; will the attachment size be limited and will the attachment transfer be done "locally"?
Maybe the service will be a replacement for kazaa?
| 10:40 pm on Apr 8, 2004 (gmt 0)|
|Lets hope this is the start of a push towards encrypted public key email. |
That's very true, but until someone builds it into a system that the average surfer can contend with, it seems a long way off. (Shame Google seem to be out of the picture)
| 11:11 pm on Apr 8, 2004 (gmt 0)|
I really can't see any kind of privacy issue here. Your email is read by so many machines for so many different purposes: virus scanners, routers, spam filters, etc. If the email is read by the computer to serve up an ad, and then the record of that is destroyed, that's fine by me.
One issue that Google should consider; however, is that they'll need to take a look at email and the corresponding ads to make sure that the ad targeter is working properly. With Adsense public webpages, you can freely look at webpages and the corresponding ads to make sure everything's optimized. But for privacy reasons, the emails will need to be anonymous. Google won't have access to the mountains of data they would need to optimize their advertising - they might want to negotiate with people early on to let them look at emails so they know the ads are being properly matched to the content of the emails.
| 11:17 pm on Apr 8, 2004 (gmt 0)|
If the gmail service is free then people can choose not to use it & also choose to not send emails to gmail addresses.
I'd be suprised if the 'adsense' type technology would fit really well to emails - not every email is about taking a cruise to Hawaii et al. It'll be interesting to see how well it works.
The issue is mostly one of perception - the only item in the letter which I thought was a valid point was the clarity of privacy policies. Beyond that - this idea has no real impact on privacy that I can see.
Storm in a teacup. You have to hand it google for coming up with good ideas.
| 11:21 pm on Apr 8, 2004 (gmt 0)|
|This is of course true, but it is surely still a worthwhile exercise to voice concerns about the next encroachment on people's privacy? |
No, it really isn't. I don't see where the problem lies. A person will not be looking at your emails just like a person doesn't look at what searches you're doing.
|Even if it is an issue of definition, of knowing the ground you are on, I still find it unacceptable for a company to expect to just get away with something like Gmail. |
Again, where's the harm? How does a computer looking at what words you have in your email affect you?
| 11:32 pm on Apr 8, 2004 (gmt 0)|
>>How does a computer looking at what words you have in your email affect you?
I don't think that is the pertinent question here. I want to know whether a private company should be allowed to access the content of personal emails for profit. And whether this should be a legitimised activity and made acceptable for other companies to do.
| 11:51 pm on Apr 8, 2004 (gmt 0)|
In response to the references to carnivore, echelon,
etc. used as examples of the lack of privacy in
electronic communciations, I would like to point
out that this is *perhaps* not about absolute
privacy but relative privacy.
First, it is highly unlikely that the FBI is ever
going to publish what it intercepts. It is more
likely that they would rather you not know that
carnivore even exists.
Second, while isp accounts are not by any means
hidden from the admins, they are generally not
actively analysed in any way. YMMV :)
Third, while today it is the offered answer
in an unofficial communication via a blog by
someone claiming to be a google employee that
there is no retention of emails, it is clearly
stated in the tos that this is not so. Furthermore,
as in spamassasin, what is to stop google tomorrow
from deciding that bayesian learning might be a good
thing in terms of serving up more topical ads?
"Today we saw a reference to widgets in an email, but did
they want to mortage it?, buy it? make it harder?
If only we had a better sample to run through the
LSI engine! Well we need to beta again, why don't
we use the archived database to test!"
Did the TOS also include the usual "we can change
the TOS at any time we see fit clause"?
Has anyone here not tried to buy life insurance
lately? Those who are a little older will remember
when the insurance companies had a little harder
time to cherry pick because the information was
harder to obtain. This is an extreme example, but
what is to stop google once the ipo happens and the
pressure to monetize the value of this data
Make no mistake about it, there is no absolute privacy,
we just have to work at making it a little bit
harder for the aggregators to put together. It takes
diligence and is sometimes unpleasant.
For example, why does Home Depot require your name
rank and serial number to process a cash return?
Because they don't trust their own employees, so
they need it to be able to do a random audit. My
answer to them is that this is their problem, not
Finally, what recent business initiative have you
seen that has raised such a firestorm? Does google
even do rudimentary research before diving into
new directions? Or do they always know best?
Remember income tax? That was supposed to be
a temporary measure to pay off war debts. There is
nothing wrong with income taxes, but it is a fruitful
example of scope creep that is understandable by all.
Scope creep happens whenever it suits the internal
goals of an organisation, be it government or big
Further to my earlier stand on canned replies to
gmail, it might be advisable to not even allow
connections from and to gmail if one has the
ability to configure their server to do so.
Luckily, this is the case with many readers here.
| 12:18 am on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)|
I'm not really too concerned about privacy issues here. The regime I used to live and work under intercepted all communication as a matter of course, phone calls were listened to and all post was received already opened, read and edited for politically incorrect content with a pair of scissors. Outgoing post got similar treatment. Email wasn't really around back then. (On the plus side we had a very low crime rate and could order any brand new equipment we wanted by picking up the 'special phone'). As a result I never assume anything is private, although I can see why this bothers people who don't expect to have their personal emails analysed for whatever reason.
What bothers me more is the commercial side to this. I get a load of business enquiries by email every day and 'coz I believe in good customer service I reply to each one in detail, even if it's a general query which I don't expect to turn into a sale. If this was going to a Gmail address I guess that means my detailed explantion of our products and services would be delivered with competitors' ads?
Well, I can hardly refuse to reply to enquiries from Gmail addresses so I think if I ever get any of these my response will be - please telephone to discuss your enquiry...
| 12:19 am on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)|
|I want to know whether a private company should be allowed to access the content of personal emails for profit. And whether this should be a legitimised activity and made acceptable for other companies to do. |
They are offering a free service that people can choose to use or not to use. They are not imposing ads in emails to all email services, just to their own product. Everybody has a choice to use it or not to use it. There is no logic to an argument that says they should be 'stopped'. Stopped by whom? The only valid group that can stop gmail are consumers - if they don't like it they won't use it and Gmail will die, otherwise it's a matter of choice, not regulation.
| 2:39 am on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)|
OK, propellerheads....so has anyone here an idea of how to make normal email encrypted - perhaps even HTML email? Can it be that difficult to use something better and less cumbersome than PGP?
The first software/service that does that will force the others to use it/do it the same way. So patent your software before showing it to us next week...!
| 2:52 am on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)|
There is so much more to this than is obvious.
Google will save old emails, even ones deleted. Current wiretap laws prevent monitoring of emails without a warrant, until they are 180 days old. If you deleted it, but Google saved it, after 180 days it can be obtained without your knowledge or permission.
I think every citizen should go through a lawsuit once before they are 25, so they learn a little about how it all really works.
| 2:59 am on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)|
<<Lets hope this is the start of a push towards encrypted public key email.>>
Couldn't agree more. Email has become my primary means of business and, often, personal communication. I feel much more secure over the phone still
| 4:04 am on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)|
I think rogerd summed it up back in message 10:
|If your communications are so confidential, a free, third-party hosted e-mail service probably isn't your best solution. |
It would be like sending incredibly sensitive information through the mail on postcards. With Gmail, it's just like the postal service announcing they're officially reading the postcards, instead of bored postal employees reading them on the sly, which one might assume of other email services.
| 4:39 am on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)|
To the people who claimed on this thread that privacy is a right, you are incorrect. The U.S. Constitution does not provide people with the right to privacy. It only goes so far to guarrantee against "unreasonable" search and seizure (4th Amend).
Someone look up the U.S. Consititution and find where it says that privacy is a "right".
The Founding Fathers realized that privacy is not within the control of government, but of each individual. The government cannot guarrantee that your personal matters will be kept private. Only you can control that.
While it would be a violation of the 4th Amendment for the U.S. Postal Service to scan your mail for ad placement, it is TOTALLY permissible for a commercial mail delivery service to do so, as long as you agree to the terms.
When you send an email to someone, you are giving away privacy to the recipient(s) of your email. If those recipients forward that mail to other people, that is YOUR fault, not theirs.
That's the important point in the Gmail issue. Only you can guarrantee your privacy. Even if you are not a Gmail user, you are still responsible if your mail is forwarded to a Gmail user.
| 5:26 am on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)|
Big brother rears his ugly head in the medium of electronic communication.
Google is doing us a favor by reminding the world just how un-private electronic communications are, in all it's analog and digital forms.
If you want privacy, go make a drop in the park, or make learning about stealth your business.
| 6:29 am on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)|
I gotta head home for the night, but I wanted to reply to the notion of "Google will save old emails, even ones deleted." I think that's another instance where we were trying to be totally upfront, but we could have made the wording better. It's very hard to guarantee that a piece of digital data will be forever banished from existence. Even "deleting" a file from a hard disk often leaves traces of the data that can be partially recovered. Another example would be if a server has a disk go bad. You could certainly try to make sure that you have machines at every data center to degauss or shred such drives, but guaranteeing that a file will be gone forever can be quite hard. So I don't think the "Google intends to save data after a user wants it deleted" notion is at all correct; we're trying to be honest and upfront about the realities of storing digital files. We're not keeping deleted emails around deliberately or anything like that.
I know they'd be happy to hear constructive feedback about any issue, from something privacy-related to feedback or feature requests. I know from working at Google that we're trying to offer a useful service, that we care about privacy, and that we'll respect our users and try to offer them a compelling service. I think after most people get a chance to try Gmail or take it for a test drive, they're going to feel much better about it.
My sweetie is out of town this weekend, so hopefully I'll have a little more time to stop by WebmasterWorld and answer questions too.
| 7:31 am on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)|
If you want 100% privacy - don't use any email - use a pen and paper and the postal service.
| 8:14 am on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)|
Google is last to the very competitive email market.....major mistake....the numbers were there for all to see and Google was asleep!
Gmail is a pointless waste of time and resources IMHO. This is a classic case of chasing competitors, not thinking outside of the box!
Google search has gone radical, Google offerings have gone radical....Google no longer offers the mainstream satisfaction and will end up paying for it.
Simply put Google is fired......they have ceased to be competitive!
| 9:33 am on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)|
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.
Please stop spreading unfounded rumours.
Gmail is NOT "granting access to email content" to anyone but the intended recipient.
| 10:44 am on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)|
.<< We're not keeping deleted emails around deliberately or anything like that.>>
And to repeat the phrase used elsewhere in anther forum ...
"and I'm a cute fluffy bunny ...sweetie"
Oh lordy ..how the PR business has sunk in imagination and tone since I and others left it
....cringemaking "golly gosh" answers don't convince since the 1950's
....if they ever did
...eventually one quits in sheer embarrasment at what one is forced to write ..even if the money is good ..!
The way I see it they ( at the plex ) are gonna run this thing anyway...
who could resist all that money..... not even Bill!
I think I'll just set up an auto response mail to all incoming "gmails" of about 20 megs full of words guarranted to fire up "carnivore" and "echelon" and whatever others there are ( that ought to keep em all busy ) ...maybe when the various governments realise the targeted adds for assault rifles being served up by "g" to all my middle eastern correspondants is a product of some PR and accountancy morons coffee machine idea at the plex...they ( the nice legislator men everywhere )will just pull the plug ....
Where do they find PR men these days ....free at McSearch engines with every "happy post" ...?
| 11:04 am on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)|
That's an unrealistic expectation since the receiver is free to share their email with whomever they choose. The sender never has any say in the matter except to not send in the first place. Even with a non-disclosure agreement the sender still has no control (though he might legal recource available to him).
|Sorry, but most senders of email to a gmail account...would have the expectation that their email is intended for the destination account only |
From the sounds of it, gmail is less invasive than a spam filter. There are abundent examples of spam filters intersepting ligitimit email and not delivering it; with this technology all that happens is advertisments are generated based on the contents of the email without a record of how. The keywords chosen have no associated context, the ads aren't associated with a sender, and no concudsions can even be drawn about the receiver (even if this info was retained) since a person has no control over what others send him.
|...further organised examination other than the usual spam filtering. |
The bottom line is that the only reason this is even a story in the first place is because fear mongering makes good copy.
| 1:05 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)|
I have a question that maybe someone can explain to me.
There are lots of services out there that will pay you to surf the web while you look at ads and let them monitor your surfing. You sign a contract saying that they are allowed to serve you ads and they can harvest your information, and there is probably even a clause thrown in there that they can pass the third party information on to whomever they want.
In relation to Gmail, what is illegal about them putting something down in their TOS and you signing it, thereby making an agreement with them? No one forces you to sign it. You receive a service for a service. How is it an invasion of privacy when you could clearly use other services?
It's not like Google is pinning you down against your will.
| 2:01 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)|
Google could one-up the competition with an e-mail that is highly secure from the hackers.
Like requiring 8 digit random alpha-numeric passwords, and requiring users to read a short description about hacker tricks to avoid, and how Google will communicate with account holders in a way that hackers can't easily spoof them.
People who open their eyes to all facets of the digital world will probably see that security is more of a threat than privacy to most users.
| 2:09 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)|
|>>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. |
Please stop spreading unfounded rumours.
Gmail is NOT "granting access to email content" to anyone but the intended recipient.
Try as I might I can find no justification for this comment. With spam filtering you allow a company to access the content of emails in order to block unwanted or malicious content. Google are now requesting that this access be granted for other (marketing) purposes.
They admit this themselves and it is one of the main points that has triggered the privacy debate. To imply that this is something I invented to 'badmouth' Google is absurd.
| 2:31 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)|
Fortunately, everyone has a choice. Free e-mail can be had anywhere, and for every Google out there that sells you gigs of storage at the cost of your privacy, there'll be someone else offering "a small, *secure* account" for those who value privacy.
Google is not the new Microsoft - so yes, we all can choose for ourselves.
| 2:40 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)|
sherwoodseo and others please stop all these "if you don't like it, don't use it arguments."
Email doesn't just affect the person with an account but all the people they receive email from.
Further because of email forwarding, as a sender I have no idea if my email will ultimately end up in a gmail account.
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