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28 Privacy and Civil Liberties Organizations
Urge Google to suspend Gmail...
pageoneresults




msg:1553370
 7:20 pm on Apr 7, 2004 (gmt 0)

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]

 

figment88




msg:1553460
 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.

Chndru




msg:1553461
 2:54 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

Email doesn't just affect the person with an account but all the people they receive email from.

whoa!
Yeah, GMail is far far worse than Ozone abuse and cancer twilight. You wont get my credit card # to make a purchase from your site, if i use gmail account. would you? :)

Brett_Tabke




msg:1553462
 3:00 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

>> everyone has a choice
>In relation to Gmail, what is illegal about them
> putting something down in their TOS and you signing it

There in lies the rub. If we correspond to your Gmail account, we have not signed nor agreed to anything at all.

recap:
a) there are no privacy laws applicable to email in this case.
b) email is not extended any protection from wire tapping laws. Just the opposite in fact - the govt can read your email at will - and does.
c) ISP spam scanners already scour/read your email several times.
d) not much new here except the tagging of ads to keywords found in email.
e) what is new here, is the creep/sock drawer/ it is evil factor.

Chndru




msg:1553463
 3:08 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

Well-said, Brett. Nothing new here. It has had always been underground. Gmail brought it to the table. And everyone clamouring "its creepy".

figment88




msg:1553464
 3:10 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

a) there are no privacy laws applicable in this case

In the US there is GLB, HIPPA, and COPPA.
[webmasterworld.com...]

Europeans seem to think there are issues there.

d) not much new here except the tagging of ads to keywords found in email.

Seems to me a mighty big difference in many dimensions. Like saying after the presidential elections, not much new here except a new administration.

e) what is new here, is the creep/sock drawer/ it is evil factor.

That's not new. There is Google Groups, Google Image Search, Distributing AdWords to parked domains, etc. etc.

GoogleGuy




msg:1553465
 5:00 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

I made most of the points I wanted to earlier, but I do think that after people try it out, they'll find that they like Gmail. I could give more examples of where things like the Related Links feature made a big improvement in the user experience, but I think most people will want to try it out and decide for themselves what they think of it.

freeflight2




msg:1553466
 5:20 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

For me the killer argument against GMail is that users don't have any interest in ecommerce while reading email.

Yes, users will click on the ads - once they are 'done with email' and bored and don't know what to do next, or curiousity might make them click on ads (e.g. to see how much the car a friend bought costs).

The only way it would make sense would be to display the mail and have links on the right to initiate sponsor/web searches e.g. if somebody received email from a friend about a new Lexus sports car:

Search Sponsors and the Web on:
- 'Lexus'
- 'Car Dealers in New York, NY'
- 'Auto Repair East Coast'
That would be much more useful and would make google users and adwords customers happy without google doing evil.

pleeker




msg:1553467
 5:29 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

For me the killer argument against GMail is that users don't have any interest in ecommerce while reading email.

The fact that spammers are as rich as they are would tend to disprove that blanket generalization.

Yidaki




msg:1553468
 5:29 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

>users don't have any interest in ecommerce while reading email

I tend to agree. I have enough ecommerce in my inbox.

Another question since this seems to be unclear: who parses (reads) the emails to detect the topic and to target the ads? Pigeons? Phd's? Or even machines?

>The fact that spammers are as rich as they are would tend to disprove that blanket generalization.

And those who click attachements love to receive attachements, too?

freeflight2




msg:1553469
 5:43 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

The fact that spammers are as rich as they are would tend to disprove that blanket generalization.

let's guess they make $50-$100M combined/year - that's not that much considering that they are wasting 50% of all email traffic.
Some of the spammers have to go to prison and google will go where it belongs to if it does not drop the idea of showing intrusive 'ads' next to people's private thoughts and property.

My suggestion to google:
- after all GMail with 1GB storage and index is an awesome idea - as long as there are no ads - launch GMail without ads and keep it adfree.
- provide a useful, fast service. Users will thank you, 'stick' and move from Y/MSN over to google gmail. They will be using G search and generate $ once they have the desire to purchase something.

=> it will not generate billions of $ right away but will make more $ in the long run and most of all will not ruin Google's image.

Even_Steven




msg:1553470
 8:32 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

Email doesn't just affect the person with an account but all the people they receive email from.

Precisely why it is your responsibility to decide what you write in an email.

The problem these days is that too many people just don't want to take responsibility for themselves anymore!

ThatAdamGuy




msg:1553471
 7:32 am on Apr 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

Further because of email forwarding, as a sender I have no idea if my email will ultimately end up in a gmail account.

You also have no idea if the sender will post it on a message board, forward it to a mailing list, print it out and post it on a bulletin board at work, etc. Life's uncertain. E-mail, even more so.

For me the killer argument against GMail is that users don't have any interest in ecommerce while reading email.

I strongly disagree. So, too, apparently, does Eudora, Microsoft, Yahoo, and a slew of other companies and the firms that pay to advertise with them.

Personally, when I get an e-mail newsletter about Lindy Hop, I'd enjoy seeing some unobtrusive ads on the righthand side of the screen about discount dancewear or cool swing dance videos, etc. That's a plus for me (and, I bet, for millions of others), not a disadvantage.

Another question since this seems to be unclear: who parses (reads) the emails to detect the topic and to target the ads? Pigeons? Phd's? Or even machines?

Definitely machines, as has been strongly stated many times by Google. But this raises some good questions:

Who programs robots? Who determines if the ads shown are indeed relevant?

and
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.

Either Google had or will have VERY generous (or well-rewarded) people who are offering to expose their mail to human dissection, or there's some other miracle of development I can't fathom. AdSense, IMHO, wouldn't be enough of a similar training ground.

And speaking of AdSense, I do have to respectfully agree with others who took issue of the comparison of AdSense with the Gmail ad-showing. It doesn't seem like apples and apples to me, either.

The problem these days is that too many people just don't want to take responsibility for themselves anymore!

Amen! And indeed, what really concerns me is that a lot of these so-called privacy groups seem to be speaking for a tiny minority of folks... and yet, in the cahoots with journalists who annoyingly must tear down every entity / person they build up to mythic status, just to sell papers, these groups may well ruin or partially disable a service that the majority of people in the world would enjoy and find useful and affordable.

Why should they think they have the right to store my mails to you if I dont sign up to it.

Why should Earthlink have the right to access the mail you send? I bet some of it goes through their servers. It may even sit there before I access it via IMAP or POP3, and it may even sit there for YEARS! Why should UUnet have the right to carry your e-mail to its destination? Who gave them and other bandwidth providers the right to access YOUR e-mail? And yes, have no illusions about it... your (plain text) e-mail could be EASILY intercepted in one of a zillion spots across the Internet. Probably with less fuss that it'd take to get a warrant to see it on Gmail.

There is a trust relationship with my email provider that at the very least means that they will not sell the content of my emails for commercial gain.

No one is selling the contents of your e-mail any more than AOL, which makes money as an ISP, is making money from you accessing Web pages or sending mail. Google is providing a service, and your e-mails are, in the scheme of things, really incidental.

Several people here assumed that ads were actually inserted into email

Yes, there's sure been a lot of misinformation, hasn't there? :¦

I am not so worried about the privacy issues but, has Google looked at the concerns regarding targetted advertizing generally, specifically the fact that if somebody sends an email from a non gmail account, their content will be mined for advertizing, but they have no idea of this?

And your e-mail, sent to a Yahoo mail subscriber, may be shown along with a pop-under. Or an ad for a company of a questionable reputation. Or a hugely annoying animated banner. Did you okay that when you sent your mail?

With Gmail you have essentially announced your intention to violate privacy in order for commercial gain.
You speak of commercial gain as though it's somehow a circumstance which heightens the evilness of 'privacy' invasions. Why? When you surf on the net, your IP address is recorded in Web logs around the world, and your hit (maybe even city name or ISP name and browser language, etc.) is added up to give a number that results in potential ad revenues. Your Web surfing is resulting in MONEY for companies! Without your permission, too. Information may want to be free, but bandwidth and storage and lots of nice Internet things we take for granted cost money.

the sorts of profiling and information routinely collected or able to be collected by Google are way beyond what the average surfer would find acceptable.

Then why not let the "average surfer" make up his or her own mind? Instead, a lot of these so-called consumer-oriented privacy organizations are trying to get Gmail shut down or practically neutered... preventing the "average surfer" from having any choice or say in the matter. That's pretty rotten, IMHO.

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.

HIJACKED? Planes get hijacked. Consumers give permission. Big difference.

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.

It's this slippery-slope stuff that really gets to me, too. Right now, your ISP likely knows (and has access to) EVERY e-mail you send and receive. Every Web site you look at. Every file you download. And they could then turn around and sell this to marketers tomorrow, right? So do we then rail against ISPs because they have the POTENTIAL to misuse information?

Google has the POTENTIAL to do lots of horrible stuff. They could pick random e-mails, and post the funniest/most-pathetic e-mails in a forum somewhere. Lonely Google engineers could surreptiously search for pictures being sent or received of Hot Babes(tm). So many possibilities, so little time! But in this world, we judge companies based upon their past actions, or at least we should. Microsoft has been convicted on all sorts of nasty stuff. Google, as far as I know, has not. I'm not even aware of a single case in which Google has shared someone's search history with a law enforcement agent, or volunteered to do so.

Google is, I still honestly believe, a Good Company. I trust them, and have seen no reason not to. All this talk of well, they COULD do this, they COULD do that... ack! :¦ And the sky could fall tomorrow.

People don't like to have things "thrown in their face" when reading an email

It's a text ad. Nothing flashing. No noises. No animation. That's about as un-in-your-face as you can get.

If I write you a long rambling mail (which would be par for the course) how will they know which paragraph contains references to something I would actually want to search for?

Same way, I presume, that AdSense works. And, admittedly, not always well, for that matter ;). But in the worst case scenario, they put up some untargeted ads (AdWords users aren't penalized for bad CTR on content sites). I can't see how users would be miffed or even mildly annoyed by this. Heck, I see ads for feminine hygiene products on those rare occasions when I watch TV, and -- let's face it -- I don't have much use for them! But this doesn't disturb my sense of well-being.

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 strongly disagree. Scanning is scanning. And as others have rightly pointed out, with spam-spamming, the end result is that I sometimes don't get important (non-spam) e-mail. That's a lot worse than seeing ads on a screen, I think.

The Gmail system is in itself unacceptable from a consumer privacy point of view.

Again, why do so many people presume to speak for everyone? Why can't people be free to make up their own minds?

will the attachment size be limited

I seem to remember reading that the limit was 10 megs, but not sure if that's incoming, outgoing, or both.

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.

From my standpoint: Yes. And yes. :) Many people also let Nielsen monitor what they watch on TV. Or keep shopper logs for marketing firms. Or participate in focus groups. We have a long and hallowed history, at least in America, of sharing our opinions and our data in return for (hopefully) tangible benefits :).

The bottom line is that the only reason this is even a story in the first place is because fear mongering makes good copy.

AMEN! It's really a shame, isn't it? Type 'gmail' into Google News (well, at least we see G.N. is very unbiased :D), and you get a flood of negative stories :(. Ah, the press loves to tear down a hero. Last week, Google's on the cover of Newsweek. Next week, maybe Time will have a feature: "Google: Gone to the Dark Side?" Sheesh.

The 28 organizations are voicing their concerns...

Did anyone happen to actually absorb which 28 organizations / people are protesting?
- Many groups I've never heard of.
- Some are known (rightly, IMHO) as "tin foil hat" individuals.
- Some are just ridiculously irrelevant (Consumer Task Force for Automotive issues?! -- "Well, what if people try to Gmail and drive! This could make the roads MUCH less safe!")

One last thing: I do agree Google could and should have handled much of this (and other Gmail introduction issues) better. They should have clearly predicted and PROACTIVELY defused much of this mess, especially with regards to privacy-hyper-sensitive Europe. Google's got some incredibly smart people (I know... I'm friends with lots of 'em, and I suppose I should have started off with that as a disclaimer :D)... but clearly, some folks seemed to have dropped the ball when it comes to Gmail PR and marketing :(

ThatAdamGuy




msg:1553472
 10:11 am on Apr 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

GoogleGuy wrote, tantalizingly:
I made most of the points I wanted to earlier, but I do think that after people try it out, they'll find that they like Gmail. I could give more examples of where things like the Related Links feature made a big improvement in the user experience, but I think most people will want to try it out and decide for themselves what they think of it.

Hmm... so... how far along are you, GG, in getting us WW'ers in on this round of Gmail beta testing? If Gmail users are happy Gmail users, I would think you'd feel much less besieged if more of us had accounts :D

In the meantime, could ya ask the G powers that be to quit teasing us, and remove (for now) the statements on the New Accounts [google.com] pages that promise that Google Accounts currently give access to services including Gmail? ;)

Brad




msg:1553473
 12:08 pm on Apr 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

>>e) what is new here, is the creep/sock drawer/ it is evil factor.

Spot on. It's about public perception which is a very real thing. I think Google will only fuel resistance to it's image with this. It smells slightly of "evil" which is ironic from a company that tries to bill itself as the opposite. That is the perception anyway.

Please Be Gentle




msg:1553474
 12:33 pm on Apr 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hi ThatAdamGuy
I had decided that I was going to try to maintain an atypically "dignified silence", but after your references to my posts, I felt compelled to reply. There are somethings with which I agree, but more with which I do not.
I said: "I am not so worried about the privacy issues but, has Google looked at the concerns regarding targetted advertizing generally, specifically the fact that if somebody sends an email from a non gmail account, their content will be mined for advertizing, but they have no idea of this?" To which you replied:"And your e-mail, sent to a Yahoo mail subscriber, may be shown along with a pop-under. Or an ad for a company of a questionable reputation. Or a hugely annoying animated banner. Did you okay that when you sent your mail?" The distinction between the two ( and you will probably disagree) is that it is using the content of my mail to create this advertizing and I have no idea. Psychologically this is a brilliant move on Google's part as the third-party advertizing will find resonance in what I have written to you as a friend. Sometimes, familiarity breeds respect as opposed to contempt, and Google are capitalizing on this rapport and on this private medium of communication. (Other companies would love to be able to do this, but because Google has taken a strong moral stance on other issues, I find this crass over-commercialization of private correspondence incongruous, although admittedly I place Google on a higher ethical pedestal than Microsoft or Yahoo).
With regard to the appropriateness of targetted advertizing, you contend "But in the worst case scenario, they put up some untargeted ads (AdWords users aren't penalized for bad CTR on content sites). I can't see how users would be miffed or even mildly annoyed by this. ". I wasn't remotely worried about the Adwords users being penalized for bad CTR. In the thread "Gmail free e-mail: Google plans to read the emails "(http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum100/2-9-10.htm) I originally gave an example of an adsense ad which was advertizing washing machines that appeared next to an article talking about how a little boy had drowned in a washing machine. This came up in reference to an interview with Sergey Brin regarding Adsense. Another example of insensitive adSense mentioned was the fact that adsense ads promoting airline tickets appeared next to an article about the September 11th tragedy. Can you imagine getting that with an email? I know that I am only a hyper-sensitive European (as you would say), but, hey, that would "disturb my sense of well being".

You asked "Did anyone happen to actually absorb which 28 organizations / people are protesting?
- Many groups I've never heard of."
I agree I looked at the organizations and only recoginized one signatory. If I am not mistaken Daniel Brandt is known as anti-Google so it did ring alarm bells. It occurred to me that Google would dismiss a letter raising genuine concerns, because it was only those with an axe to grind, who would have seized on any opportunity to complain. I didn't have much time so I looked into one of the European Privacy groups which has been around long before Google and it seemed respectable enough. Another one of the signatories is affiliated with Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility which appears to be a respected organization. I don't see why they would conspire against Google ( I found it interesting that there appears to be a connection between "Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility" and Larry Page's brother Carl - if you do a search you will find he edited a CPSR newsletter and seems to be a member).

It is not just privacy-hyper-sensitive Europeans who are protesting against some of gmail's features and I don't think that this should be portrayed as a bizarre "American vs European" issue. Nevertheless I have noted a difference in the focus of objections for both ( even on this board I think I can detect a divergence in focus or concerns between posters I assume to be American and those I figure to be European (but I also know that I shouldn't assume!)). Nevertheless, the fact that there are so many different reasons for objecting to some of these features accentuates how Google hasn't just got it wrong with the Europeans!

"Google is, I still honestly believe, a Good Company. I trust them."
I agree that Google is a Good Company and I don't think that they had any devious masterplan, but I do think that they have been misguided and perhaps naive with Gmail. The learning curve transition between providing search and email is more than a technological one, and I think that they should have researched the non-technological implications more thoroughly. I love Google's search facilities and admit that the API has enriched my life but I will not sign up for gmail as things now stand. I did ask myself whether Google has been victim of their own success. If a smaller company had created gmail,would it have created as much controversy? Probably not, but personally I would still have a problem with the targetted advertizing bit, regardless. One of the reasons that Google's status as a multi-million dollar company matters is that once they do this, Microsoft and Yahoo etc. are sure to follow suit with something even worse. "All is changed, changed utterly. A terrible beauty is born". Google's maxim of "do no evil" has meant that it is under more scrutiny than companies whose sole aim is to "make more money". Furthermore, because it is Google, more people will use it than would have otherwise, so like it or not it is here to stay.

Ironically,some good can come out of this controversy as it brings into sharper focus how little we (in my case anyway) know about our rights or responsibilities with regards to email usage. For instance, if I live in Europe and choose to use a U.S-based service such as Gmail,hotmail or Yahoo, which laws apply when I send an email? U.S law, EU law or the law of my particular country? I had no idea there were substantial differences between European and U.S data privacy laws. I have never thought of this before, which reflects badly on me. Furthermore, people should not lose sight of the fact that currently gmail is on a trial run basis. Companies frequently alter their product because of concerns raised in this phase, so it would not be a huge deal for Google to alter GMail before general release. It would be nice to know whether Google is taking any of our concerns on board before this whole thing snowballs and creates antagonism or suspicions. The longer they wait before making official statements, the longer these arguments will continue.
I hate to sound like a broken record so...
I will try to keep my mails shorter and more succinct.
I will try to keep my mails shorter and more succinct.
I will try to keep my mails shorter and more succinct.
With Kindest Regards
Please Be Gentle

helleborine




msg:1553475
 11:27 am on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

If GMail scans the content of my emails to target advertising, I'll get a lot of nonsense I don't care about.

A few of the emails I send are work-related (Google ads about HPLC? Cloning tools? Apoptosis? Gimme a break), and the rest is idle chit chat (Google ads on "when and where we're going to meet next", jokes).

How many emails do I send that are related to my hobbies or potential purchases? Practically none! GMail will never guess, and be way-off-the-mark 99% of the time.

Why couldn't GMail ask, upon signup, what my interests are, and be transparent as usual as to their intentions of giving me relevant advertising? Not just a few vague boxes or broad categories to click. Let me key in some serious keywords, and give me plenty of flexibility. Let me add as few or as many as I want.

I know what topics might incite some productive clicking on my part. Topics that continue to interest me and for which I have made online purchases in the past. Give me birdwatching, gardening, orchids, stained glass, hummingbirds, bats, Southwest travel, etc

I'd actually be interested, and welcome it rather than view it as an intrusion.

That sure would be a step up over hotmail's popups for online matchmakers.

bufferzone




msg:1553476
 11:58 am on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

Maybe you could use Gmail just for this. Instead og using Gmail for sending and receiving e-mail one could use it to tell G what you want to receiving advertising about. Create an Gmail account, send an e-mail to your proper e-mail account containing the words “birdwatching, gardening, orchids, stained glass, hummingbirds, bats, Southwest travel” in the subject and in the text.

This way you use Gmail to tell Google what you want to receiving. Don’t use it for mail.

Not quit the way Google indented it to work, but you cant get it all, ;-))

dragonlady7




msg:1553477
 4:00 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

I think the original poster was indicating that they'd much prefer the open dialogue with Google about it. It's not that helleborine doesn't know where to go to find ads about these things, it's just that he (she? sorry) would rather Google asked nicely instead of reading personal correspondence.

freeflight2




msg:1553478
 5:50 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

instead of ads they should display links on the right (e.g. if a user reads a friends email about their new Lexus Sports Car):
"The following websearches might be useful for you: Lexus, Auto Dealers, Lexus New York, NY, ..." - then GMail would be starting to make sense and it would ensure legitimiate clicks on ads instead of clicks of bored users.

Yidaki




msg:1553479
 5:57 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

>it would ensure legitimiate clicks on ads instead of clicks of bored users

Hm ... this made me thinking. Has it already been mentioned how google tracks the clicks on gmail ads? I guess, they would be able to know WHO actually clicked on an ad ... not what ip or what user agent but WHO personally. Would this be something new or something other personalized services already do?

freeflight2




msg:1553480
 6:15 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

that's the whole issue here: Google will know about your whole life: 4 years ago you were researching student loans, last year you bought a house => G will tend/default to show 'refinance your house / get a better student loan now!' ads. Google doesn't need to collect age data from its' users since it will know their background and their important steps in life already.

Yidaki




msg:1553481
 6:21 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

>Google will know about your whole life

Well, this sounds a bit pathetic, don't you think!?

Everybody would know about my whole life if i'd tell em about my whole life.

But would Google actually track the account for each click? Will there be an id or something in the AdSenseForGMail links that identifies the clicker?

freeflight2




msg:1553482
 6:44 pm on Apr 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

there already is a google-cookie for each user which now might get linked to your GMail and from there to your Lastname/Firstname. With 'whole life' I was referring to the commercial aspects of it... especially in which part of your life you are currently.

gopi




msg:1553483
 2:58 pm on Apr 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

Adam , a well written post...

GG , its good to be open in your TOS but being too open will confuse users like your statement about "deleting mails" ...many assumed google will simply retain mails indefinitely even if deleted

But in reality google merely stated the technical problems in deleteting all the instances of a mail at the same instant the 'delete' button is clicked ...this is same for yahoo and hotmail and other providers , but they dont talk about it in their TOS :)

As i said dont be too open it confuses users and give food for conspiracy theorists!

What Google needs immediately is a new legal strategy!

gopi




msg:1553484
 3:06 pm on Apr 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

If i were google i will postpone the public release of gmail until all this outcry subsidize ...

i always hear the best strategy to react to an false but adverse PR is to just ignore it eventually the news people will become bored and move to other "hot" issues ...its like the old saying "Time will cure anything"

Also google you have to rethink about not attaching a tagline in each outgoing mail - this was the single important marketing tool that helped hotmail to gain hundreds of millions of subscribers with just 50k marketing budget! - That even resulted in the term "Viral Marketing"

figment88




msg:1553485
 3:15 pm on Apr 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

Unfortunately the long posts intermingle strawman issues (e.g. are people going to read my emails) with legitimate concerns. As a result real issues are trivialized.

So, I will stick with one issue here, that of using my intellectual property without my consent.

I find it is disingenuous to compare scanning my proprietary information to determine ad targetting with the display of some random banner ad.

Sure I might not like the brand associations of some banner ads that might be next to an email I sent that someone reads in Yahoo! Mail, but they are so far off that I do not worry. I do not think bus bench advertisers worry who is going to sit on the bench.

If Yahoo! Mail, or Hotmail or anyone else starts using contents of my email to target these ad banners, then I will voice objections.

It is a much different matter if they actually use the contents of my email rather than just the fact that there is something in the middle of the page that they can put advertising around.

An authorized use of intellectual property is what is referred to as a copyright violation. As as I know in all but about three countries in the world copyright infringement is a civil violation.

pleeker




msg:1553486
 6:41 pm on Apr 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

But in this world, we judge companies based upon their past actions, or at least we should. Microsoft has been convicted on all sorts of nasty stuff. Google, as far as I know, has not.

Amen, AdamGuy. We give trust based on what we've seen. I don't trust MSFT. Google has done nothing to lose my trust. When they say they won't save info. about what ads are shown into a profile, I have to believe them.

Now, if they violate that trust ... shame on them and they'll lose many users.

Why couldn't GMail ask, upon signup, what my interests are, and be transparent as usual as to their intentions of giving me relevant advertising? Not just a few vague boxes or broad categories to click. Let me key in some serious keywords, and give me plenty of flexibility. Let me add as few or as many as I want.

Now that is an excellent idea. Let us choose our own ads and feel free to show them all the time, as opposed to trying to guess what ads to show based on email content ... often not getting it right ... and often having to show zero ads because you couldn't figure out what to show. I'm in the market for a new Mac right now, and would love to have some Mac retailers making their best offer/pitch to me.

instead of ads they should display links on the right (e.g. if a user reads a friends email about their new Lexus Sports Car):
"The following websearches might be useful for you: Lexus, Auto Dealers, Lexus New York, NY, ..."

It's already been posted somewhere that they DO show web search links on occasion when no relevant ads are available.

Google will know about your whole life: 4 years ago you were researching student loans, last year you bought a house => G will tend/default to show 'refinance your house / get a better student loan now!' ads.

Your life may be very linear, and your computer use may be very linear, but I suspect that most Internet users are not like that. Picture the typical family with one computer in the den, and everyone in the house shares this one computer. They all do Google searches. They all click on AdWords links at times. What Dad searches and clicks on will be substantially different from what his 13-year-old daughter does.

Speaking for me alone, my 6-year-old son often uses my computer to visit NickJr.com and sites like that. And then I go read WebmasterWorld. G will fail miserably if it assumes every computer in the world is being used by one person, and I'm pretty sure the PhDs on staff are aware of that.

ThatAdamGuy




msg:1553487
 8:42 pm on Apr 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

I've really found this exchange to be fascinating, and I also am grateful that people actually read my previous insanely long-[posterior] post :D

I will try to keep my mails shorter and more succinct.

You're a far better person than I in this respect ;)

PleaseBeGentle... you have thoughtfully reminded me that bad targeting is not simply a laughing matter. As with the earlier-reported AdSense targeting on a NY Times article about a murder case involving suitcases which resulted in Samsonite luggage ads, the juxtaposition of sensitive text with ads can understandably be seen as unpleasant. I know that Google has claimed that they will not put ads on sensitive e-mails, but... I can't see how any non-human can accurately judge "sensitivity." Unless Google's Gmail bots are unbelievably smart (smarter than their AdSense bots), it's just a matter of time before the vast number of mails from angsty-just-broke-up folks have "Single? Want a date?" ads placed next to them :¦ And yes, probably much worse stuff, too. Personally, I have thick skin; I'd still be amused, in a black-comic way. But I understand that others may not be.

Regarding Americans vs. Europeans; I've lived most of my life in America, but did live and work for a bit in Germany (Mannheim, near Heidelberg), and I also have dated a German woman. I've learned firsthand, then, just how starkly different American and European views of privacy are, and have had some sharp (but respectful) arguments with my European friends on numerous occasions. For instance, very few of my European friends have agreed to join Social Networking sites (like Tribe or Orkut), and they've instead expressed complete shock as to why any intelligent person would even THINK about sharing their private info like this. In America, on the whole, we not only tell all, we do so with a smile :)

Ironically,some good can come out of this controversy as it brings into sharper focus how little we (in my case anyway) know about our rights or responsibilities with regards to email usage. For instance, if I live in Europe and choose to use a U.S-based service such as Gmail,hotmail or Yahoo, which laws apply when I send an email? U.S law, EU law or the law of my particular country?

I actually studied intellectual property issues extensively in law school, and while that's now half-a-decade back (and much has changed), I agree that the issues are amazingly complex and very interesting! I even took a seminar on International Intellectual Property Law, and I should see if I can find the paper I wrote :D.

I guess, they would be able to know WHO actually clicked on an ad

For better or worse, Google has staunchly noted that they will be discarding all targeting info after each mail is scanned. From a privacy perspective, this SHOULD make folks feel better, since there'll be no dossier on Mr. J Smith, who likes knitting, enjoys cuban cigars, often corresponds with women whose names start with S, and uses smilies way too much. On the flip side, though, I must admit some personal disappointment. I MAY be in the minority, but frankly, I'd prefer for Google to get to know me over time so its ads could be even better targeted to my developing interests and habits. Do I click on lots of international travel ads? Show me more! Do I tend to write lots of e-mails about job searching? Send me ads about career books or expert interview techniques, etc. This would be especially helpful for when I send or receive e-mails that aren't, in and of themselves, very targetable. But alas, this is not to be :(.

An authorized use of intellectual property is what is referred to as a copyright violation. As as I know in all but about three countries in the world copyright infringement is a civil violation.

and

the internet users sending email to an @gmail address never gave consent to have their intellectual property used for advertising purposes - they were also never paid a portion of the profit and might claim that later. What will happen is that a legal organization will collect millions of electronic signatures of internet users who sent email to an @gmail address and who were "never paid" for their work. The US is known to be very strict when it comes to 'unpaid wages' and related issues.

I respectfully would suggest that both of these are improper interpretations of intellectual property rights and restrictions. You may indeed have a 'copyright' on the mails you write, but you do not have an EXCLUSIVE and TOTAL right to control how they are used. By sending e-mail, you grant a great many rights (transit, duplication, storage, even republication to some extent). I believe Google's scanning of your mails for contextual ad purposes is no different, legally, than having your mail scanned for viruses, etc. After all, anti-virus and anti-spam vendors aren't doing these things without profit incentives, are they? You are, if perhaps more indirectly, contributing to MANY peoples' / companies' profits via your e-mail.

* * *

One of the ideas expressed in this forum that I've really liked is the concept of 'guided relevance.' Specifically, I would also like the ability to give Google some hints about what my interests are, so that it could balance what it understands to be the issues of incoming e-mails and what my actual interests are, in context. That way, for instance, when I got e-mail talking about shoes, Google wouldn't just put up ads for shoes, but instead, Lindy Hop clothing & accessories, since it would know I'm a swing dancer. Similarly, if a friend wrote me about his golfing in Costa Rica, Google would then show me ads about travel or even about Costa Rica tourism specifically instead of golf, because it would know that I have much more interest in traveling and Latin America than I do in golf.

For what it's worth, I also wish that Google would offer this sort of 'guided relevance' in its AdSense program! I know that it'd be asking for trouble to let Webmasters directly pick which ads or ad-topics are featured, but I think a wonderfully happy medium would be allowing Webmasters to guide Google... letting them know that a particular page or set of pages is about MUSIC keyboards, not computer keyboards, for instance.

* * *

And lastly, just a quick note about my name. Though I post on 99% of forums around the net as ThatAdamGuy (sure, go ahead, Google me if you're really, really bored :D), my name is Adam. I just want to make sure that, despite the Guy in my name, it's clear I have no relation to the honorable GoogleGuy, and also am not a Google employee. :)

freeflight2




msg:1553488
 10:17 pm on Apr 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

It is a much different matter if they actually use the contents of my email rather than just the fact that there is something in the middle of the page that they can put advertising around.

An authorized use of intellectual property is what is referred to as a copyright violation.

That's by far the best analysis of the problem so far.

and:
You may indeed have a 'copyright' on the mails you write, but you do not have an EXCLUSIVE and TOTAL right to control how they are used.

if you write something from scratch which is solely based on your very own work you own the full copyright - and it actually might have a very significant value - imagine somebody spending 3 days on writing an article on real estate after spending $5k to research it. You might then distribute such an article (e.g. send it per email) under provisions such as:
- your work might be confidential - nobody else besides you and the recipient may read the mail.
- your work might not be used to generate any profit other than agreed on between you and the recipient of the mail.
(legal firms usually have very nice and long footers attached to emails covering all these and similar cases)

"email" would be just a means to transmit such a piece of work and I don't see how you could loose the copyright on the piece of work you created just by transmitting it per email instead of printing it out or hand writing it down and delivering per fedex, etc.

digitalv




msg:1553489
 12:39 am on Apr 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

What's the big deal anyway? Obviously if you signed up for GMail you would be accepting whatever terms they decide to set for it. If you don't like the terms, here's a suggestion:

DON'T SIGN UP!

It's not YOUR decision to say whether other people should be allowed to accept those terms or not. Anyone who would urge Google to suspend GMail needs to learn how to mind their own business.

pixel_juice




msg:1553490
 2:42 am on Apr 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

>>why not let the "average surfer" make up his or her own mind?
>>Planes get hijacked. Consumers give permission.

In the same way that most spyware, as far the legal definiton goes, is installed with consumer's 'permission'? Plus 1GB of space is a nice way to soften the blow for the minority who read the terms and conditions.

One last thing: I do agree Google could and should have handled much of this (and other Gmail introduction issues) better. They should have clearly predicted and PROACTIVELY defused much of this mess, especially with regards to privacy-hyper-sensitive Europe. Google's got some incredibly smart people (I know... I'm friends with lots of 'em, and I suppose I should have started off with that as a disclaimer :D)... but clearly, some folks seemed to have dropped the ball when it comes to Gmail PR and marketing

Exactly. Why has Google's response been so poor? Google seem to be dropping the ball quite frequently when it comes to this type of issue.

I'm not even aware of a single case in which Google has shared someone's search history with a law enforcement agent, or volunteered to do so.

Then with all due respect, you are not looking hard enough.

Google is, I still honestly believe, a Good Company. I trust them, and have seen no reason not to. All this talk of well, they COULD do this, they COULD do that... ack! :¦ And the sky could fall tomorrow.

12 months ago I probably would have agreed with you. In 12 months time, when Google answers to shareholders, I will probably agree even less. I've been a vocal supporter of Google (and I rarely get on my soap box like this ;)), but I cannot support Gmail.

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