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So what if a machine 'reads' my email, like MSN and Yahoo! don't do that? I mean they have spam filters right?
I think the difference is that they don't provide (indirectly) information about actual content of email to 3rd parties. I'd say it does happen in GMail's case (albeit indirectly), as ability to target ad using keywords from content of emails might allow to effectively determine if particular topics are being discussed in the first place, then tempt people to click an ad, flag them up with permanent cookie and you get the picture.
Example: jealous wife targets keywords representing in her view nickname of a suspected best friend her hubby supposedly cheats with.