Welcome to WebmasterWorld Guest from

Forum Moderators: open

Message Too Old, No Replies

Calif. lawmaker moves to block Google's Gmail

Drafting legislation to block gmail



10:41 pm on Apr 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


SAN FRANCISCO, April 12 (Reuters) - A California state senator on Monday said she was drafting legislation to block Google Inc (News - Websites) .'s free e-mail service 'Gmail' because it would place advertising in personal messages after searching them for key words."


12:39 am on Apr 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Here's a question for all of you anti-gmail people... does your ISP have a server-based SPAM filter? Or do you use Yahoo mail?

You do know that SPAM filters work in an almost identical manner as Google's GMAIL is going to work, don't you? Anti-spam software scans (aka "reads") each message in full to determine whether it is spam or not, then takes the appropriate action with the e-mail. It's NOT based on the headers/sender - it is based on the actual CONTENTS of the message.

Yep, that's right - every time you receive a message those pesky SPAM filters are READING YOUR MAIL! OH MY GOD! NOOOOOO!

Seriously though ... what do you anti-gmail people think of that? I want to know :) Are you going to stop using spam blockers because you don't want your mail scanned?


6:50 pm on Apr 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

digitalv your comparison is a "complete distraction"

The objectives of spam filtering and or anti-virus measures are so obviously different to the objectives of selling Adwords targetted by detailed email scanning into a private Gmail interface.

I dare say you must have realised your post would act as a smokescreen when you posted it, why anyone might wish to distract discussion from the real issues I wonder about.


7:43 pm on Apr 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member


That wasn't really the point at all - people haven't been complaining about the fact that they're going to be shown ads with GMail. They are complaining about the fact that Gmail will "read" the content of the messages to determine the most appropriate advertisement(s) to display. The gripe has been about Google scanning their e-mail, not the ads.

While I may have been somewhat sarcastic, the question I posed in my previous post was a serious one - anti-spam software and services do EXACTLY the same thing, they scan your e-mail and look for "keywords". The obvious difference is that an anti-spam program is looking for keywords to determine if a message is spam, and GMail is looking for keywords to display an appropriate advertisement.

Since the gripe is that an automated process is "reading" their e-mail, I am curious to know if these same people have a problem with anti-spam filters - which work exactly the same way - reading their e-mail as well.


8:07 pm on Apr 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

First - I am not particularly concerned with GMail, so please don't lump me in with people that want to pass laws to ban it or that would like to roll back the calendar and prevent Al Gore from inventing the Internet.

However, in regard to people that do not possess a GMail account, but want to send mail to GMail accounts: I would like to hear directly from Google as to whether or not they will track the addresses of people that send mail to a GMail acount along with the types of ads that matched that person's email.

And, related, how easy will it be to pull all messages sent by a person to GMail accounts?

Again, to emphasize, I am talking about someone that does NOT have a GMail account.

Have these topics been addressed?


8:24 pm on Apr 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Hi John,

Yes, these issues have been addressed. In interviews, at least, Google has been very clear in noting that the info derived from scanning e-mails is discarded immediately after each ad is served. Think of Gmail as the Memento of advertising :D

This means that there is no persistent profiling done on either those who have Gmail accounts, or those who send to them.

Oops, just noticed that you wanted to hear "directly from Google." So my note, officially, does not count. If I have a chance, I'll check to see if I find stuff in Google's docs that backup my assertions.


8:34 pm on Apr 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Have these topics been addressed?

Not to my knowledge.

The plotting and tracking of social networks of both those who have Gmail accounts, as well as those who don't have accounts but send mail to account holders, is a very real possibility. Google should add something to the privacy policy about what they do with non-Gmail email addresses.

I understand that Orkut is on the bleeding edge with this sort of network tracking, and one must assume that barring a specific statement to the contrary, Google will indeed be doing this with Gmail.

Google has been very clear in noting that the info derived from scanning e-mails is discarded immediately after each ad is served.

I don't think Google has been clear at all about this. They are clear that scanning info that is personally identifiable will not be given to advertisers. That's a different question from whether info gleaned from scanning is retained in-house at Google.

[edited by: Scarecrow at 8:38 pm (utc) on April 17, 2004]


8:37 pm on Apr 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


Different people have complained about different things. What MarkA doesn't like is that his mail sent into a Gmail acount is used for commercial purposes by the recipient and Google. (I think I stated that correctly - sorry if it's not quite accurate.)

It does feel a little different than the use the anti-spam provider is making, but I don't think it really is when you look at it carefully.

My response to MarkA's argument is that this is a reasonable thing for the recipient and Google to jointly do with his mail. They aren't violating the copyright - that would be an issue if they were republishing it somewhere. They aren't violating your privacy - I don't see how extracting keywords from it can be considered doing that, since they both have the entire thing already. They are doing something you don't like, but that doesn't make it illegal or unethical.

The argument that it's wrong because they are profiting (jointly!) from it doesn't really make any sense to me, as then you're back to the same situation as the anti-spam service, which is making some tiny amount of money for each one of your emails that it processes. Similarly, what about companies that charge for space by the MB: aren't you making them money too when your email uses up space they're charging for? And for that matter, you are communicating information to the other party, who's to say that in some way at sometime in their life that won't in some way to profit from it - are you saying they shouldn't do that either?

I know this isn't going to convince anyone - these issues are basically religious: some people Just Feel It's Wrong. But please carefully consider what you're telling me I can and can't do in my own inbox.


9:22 pm on Apr 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member


My thoughts exactly. I didn't elaborate why I mentioned Yahoo mail when I started this question, but I'll do that now.

Yahoo Mail sells advertising. They don't base the advertisement on the specific message content, but the point is they are still profiting because "you" sent a message to someone with a yahoo.com e-mail address. If the yahoo mail recipient never received a message then Yahoo wouldn't profit by having that user account in their system. They profit when YOU send them e-mail because that gives the user a reason to log in and SEE those advertisements.

Just like GMail.

So really, Mark_A, if your issue is that you don't want companies to profit from the e-mail you send out, then you shouldn't send any e-mail to anyone. SOMEONE is always making money off of your message - the company selling advertising to the viewer of your message, the company selling space to the viewer of your message, the ISP who the user is paying so they can get online and view the message, etc. The list goes on and on ... frankly, I think your argument is silly.


9:45 pm on Apr 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

these issues are basically religious: some people Just Feel It's Wrong.

Spot-on. In fact, a prominent blogger was talking about how she knows that Gmail isn't illegal or likely even unethical, but to her, it just scores unpleasantly high on the "ickiness" scale. While I am frankly unable to really get into the head of folks who feel like this, I also acknowledge that it's not very productive to simply discount this stuff. It's something at the emotional core, and it's similar to how I don't understand why people were petrified to fly after 9/11. In my (obnoxiously) rational mind, I had zero fears about flying; I weighed the risks and quickly understood that I had more chance of dying from a piano or safe or something like that falling on my head than dying in an air-related terrorist attack... but one of my brilliant PhD friends nonetheless refused to get on a plane... even AFTER admitting he knew about the comparative statistical risks.

So, returning to Gmail, it seems like the same thing. From all logical arguments, as far as I can tell, Gmail is hunky dory. But to many people, it simply *FEELS* wrong or slimy. And that's really unfortunate... not only, IMHO, for technological progress overall, but also for Google the brand, Google the company, and my friends who work at Google.

I'm confident that this storm will pass, leaving Google largely unscathed, especially when (I know, I know, you're all sick of hearing this) people have a chance to play with Gmail personally. But in the meantime, I think it likely makes sense to at least respect those who feel uncomfortable with Gmail, even if many of us have difficulties relating to their concerns.


10:45 am on Apr 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

In reponse to messages in the thread at

To Phleem, digitalv & ThatAdamguy, you have made comments about my views in which I feel you have oversimplified.

A few of my more detailed arguments are at this moment on the pages listed below if anyone would like to peruse them in detail.
If you wish to paraphrase my concerns please read and think on them.

1) Post concerning the integrity and likelihood of unauthorised access to client lists of companies who do not opt into the Google Gmail service yet whose email may end up there in significant quantities without the email creators or senders consent.
This is a larger earlier post.

Message was moved to Msg 7 of this thread

2) Post concerning the possibility that advertisers will be able to place adverts based on detailed scanning of incoming emails into the proposed private Gmail interface over which those whose messages have been used for that targeting will have no oversight over the advert Google is placing and no access to police what these adverts were.

Message 38 of the thread here

Note: This post, and others, also mentions concern that the relaxation of the Google policy with respect to trademarks for the US and Canadian markets and that oversight of adverts served within private Gmail account space appears to be unavailable to trademark owners because it is not retained may permit abuse to be undetected.

3) A more concise post relating to the privacy of the identity of organisations email recipients and the as currently proposed Gmail service.

Currently listed at post no 12

4) In a discussion "Someone Is Misinformed About E-Mail Privacy..."
Message 16 of this thread

5) A small attempt to start to gather some of the regulations regarding privacy and electronic communications together only recently started and not by any means complete or up to date.
Messages 87, 98 & 90

Phleem you say "The argument that it's wrong because they are profiting (jointly!) from it doesn't really make any sense to me"

Profit is not objectionable at all to me. I prefer to pay money to companies whose services are sympathetic rather than in conflict with my personal or commercial interests.

The question for me is simple: Is the way they make their profit in alignment with my commercial and privacy interests or in conflict?

I pay for access to the Internet, to send email, to scan my incoming & outgoing email for spam and viruses, to host and serve my and others websites.

In many cases I research to ensure as much as possible that the companies used for these services do make a healthy profit and are likely to continue so to do, because if they became loss making the service would be more likely to be curtailed or seriously interrupted as they become bankrupt and cease trading and additional costs would be likely to be incurred.

Phleem you also say:
"But please carefully consider what you're telling me I can and can't do in my own inbox."

That is certainly a good angle for debate Phleem.

Here is perhaps an angle for you to think about.

If a significant population decide to opt to do this with their inboxes, lets say for example that Longhorn installs a similar Microsoft based system on all future personal computers with the ability to piggyback paid messages based on specific identifiable details in incoming emails then the communications medium of normal unencrypted and encrypted email will be significantly changed for many corporate and private users worldwide affecting the specific value, utility and various levels of privacy of the medium.

Companies do not normally like en masse to use methods of communication with their customers that by their very nature are easily used by their competitors to access that companies specific customers for the purposes of converting them to being "ex customers".

Such a medium could prove much better than general competitive advertising to be able to target the specific customers of competitors. Many types of companies try to guard their client lists quite carefully and try not to allow these lists to come into the possession of their competitors.

It is also quite true that targeted advertising of any kind attempts to target such things specifically and that other web mail providers offer some targeting or profiling to assist their advertisers. My concern about Gmail is that it seems currently it may go rather further than these previous and current services to an extent that may if precedence is set damage the integrity of the medium.

Those who disagree may wish to decide for themselves at what point of invasiveness the integrity of the medium itself would be in their opinion damaged or if the medium has any actual integrity at this moment anyhow.

Its not an anti free market approach I am suggesting or anything you should be concerned about as being communistic or anti competitive that I am arguing, it is just a common sense view from someone who is interested in the issue of the ongoing integrity of personal and corporate communication.

Scarecrow wrote:
"The plotting and tracking of social networks of both those who have Gmail accounts, as well as those who don't have accounts but send mail to account holders, is a very real possibility."

Please do not respond to this folks before thinking hard and long about what that means, not only for you yourselves but also for other users of email personal or corporate.

Scarecrow you also write:
"They are clear that scanning info that is personally identifiable will not be given to advertisers."

They were never likely to *give* this detail to advertisers, other concerns notwithstanding, Google is not a charity. :-)

The implication is that Google will scan personally identifiable detail from emails received by account holders. It may in fact be hard to avoid and in itself is not necessarily a problem it is what this scanning is used for that can create concerns.

What is not clear is whether advertising messages will be able to leverage and target based on this level of personal and corporate detail?

They may however as Gmail currently is proposed possibly sell the ability to send messages to individual account holders identified by personally identifiable information in emails arriving into the Gmail system.

Whether the detail is retained afterwards or not is probably a valid concern for those who may feel their privacy may have been invaded or their property (see the trademark & Adwords & Gmail issues) may be being abused.

That access to send a message to specifically identified Gmail account holders (identified by this scanning) or groups of specifically targeted account holders may be sold to advertisers and then no record of the scan nor the advert served may be being kept is that which suggests a possibility of selling "access" to client lists to competing commercial interests without oversight.

To close:

As this is a proposed service under trials and any changes from the proposed terms or workings would have company implications it is not likely GoogleGuy could make any comment here without prior company agreement.

I expect being unable to respond to some of the points may be frustrating to him. I think we must simply hope and assume he is reading and taking concerns raised in these threads into any debate that may be occurring within Google.

All we can do is watch the terms and conditions and any press statements issued by the company to see if they change any of the proposed policies for the service or not.

In respect that GoogleGuy most likely is unable to enter into debate here, and to avoid further repetition I will probably not post further to these threads with respect to Gmail unless things change significantly or my views are badly misquoted.

Wishing you all a pleasant Sunday.


11:41 am on Apr 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

The plotting and tracking of social networks of both those who have Gmail accounts, as well as those who don't have accounts but send mail to account holders, is a very real possibility.

Technically, that's true, but it's true for every e-mail provider in the world. E-mail addresses aren't exactly secret information: if mail providers didn't look at them, nobody would get their e-mail.

Any provider could be making a database of your contacts; why is Google the only one you're afraid of?

Oh look: New Scientist covered this [newscientist.com] 13 months ago.


9:50 pm on Apr 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I'm with Mark_A on this.

I couldn't care less about the privacy issues since I never treat any email as private, (even the stuff that goes through my own mailserver - hey, I've pulled the wrong name off my contacts list before. Ooopsie). I'd never dream of reading any of my clients' own emails, but there's nothing to stop me doing it if I wanted to.

I couldn't care less about whether it's moral to scan emails, or whether it's annoying to show ads on email. I never even notice ads on hotmail or yahoo. I automatically blank them out, but obviously they work on a lot of people or no one would bother to advertise.

What irritates me is the idea that I send a long, detailed and helpful reply to a query to a potential client, who may then be shown my competitors adverts, based on the carefully thought out reply I've just sent. To me that's on a par with someone using a supposed link to my site to redirect to their own.

Ok, so it's not a big problem. In the unlikely event I get an enquiry from a Gmail account (very rare for me to see a non-isp address) they will get their reply by fax or phone. I just find the whole concept very, very annoying...

I know... just my personal value judgment.


9:55 pm on Apr 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I'm beginning to understand the unease that some folks are feeling about having competitive advertisements shown next to their business communications sent to Gmail.

But I also wonder this: Won't it all balance out?
- Adverts will show next to stuff you send out
- Adverts will show next to stuff your competitors send out
- Some of those adverts may be from your competitor
- Some of those adverts may be from you! (assuming you buy AdWords)

So, again, I ask you: Doesn't it all pretty much come out even in the end? :)

Oh, and Mark... part of the reason for the different 'sides' here misunderstanding each other is that many of us (myself included) have taken to expounding upon our views at (great) length. I must admit, honestly without meaning to offend, that my eyes glazed over in trying to digest what you wrote above... much like, I'd assume, people grew restless trying to read some of my earlier humungous posts. This, indeed, is why I established the One Line Gmail Game [webmasterworld.com], to encourage all of us to more succinctly describe our concerns and such. In doing so, this also forces all of us to more cleanly articulate our views... a benefit for all WW'ers, I think! :)


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

10+ Year Member

"But I also wonder this: Won't it all balance out?"

Probably.... if I could afford to buy adwords on my business terms, but I've already looked at this (some were up to 3GBP per click!) and realised mailshots are cheaper - and so far the Royal Mail don't stuff competitors' leaflets into my customers' mail when they deliver! :-)

I do wonder what this going to do to the adwords prices on competitive business terms. Well, go up I s'pose :-/


2:22 am on Apr 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member


How is that any different than spending money on product research, putting together an assembly line, packaging, making deals with Ingram/Navar/etc. to get your product into CompUSA, Best Buy, Office Depot, etc.

... And then those retailers put it right on the shelf next to all of your competitors.

Unless you're a spammer, your customers FOUND YOU - not the other way around. If they found you through a search engine or directory then they no doubt saw a ton of competitors right next to you but they chose you over them. So yeah ... maybe when you reply to their e-mail inquiry they'll see a competitor's advertisement in their GMail account. That's business, my friend. Your job in doing business is to make sure that you're offering the best value, not making sure your customer never sees a competitor. If you're worried about that, you shouldn't be in business.

As someone else said, it would balance out anyway ... they're just as likely to see YOUR ad when they receive a competitor's message too. If you don't advertise on AdWords, then you're going to miss out on that market - just like you're going to miss out on any other market you choose not to advertise in.

Am I the only one who is old enough to remember when business owners were people who worked hard to make something of themselves? Seems like today everyone is just a bunch of cry babies who want legislation to make everything "fair".

Life isn't fair. If I have more toys/money/whatever than you it's because I earned it or I have a rich daddy and HE earned it. Deal with it. If you have more crap than me, a bigger business, etc. then *I* have to deal with it.

If you can't afford AdWords or don't think the cost is justified or whatever, that's fine. That's your decision. But just because YOU can't afford it doesn't mean it shouldn't happen. If you can't afford T.V. advertising, does it mean that no one else s hould be allowed to advertise on T.V.?

This whole argument is just stupid ...

Interent Yogi

7:15 am on Apr 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Is AOl already reading mail anyway?


10:49 am on Apr 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


With all due respect I find the tone of your post insulting. I am happy to discuss different points of view and realise that this is a subject that polarises opinions, however I am not happy to be accused of incompetence in my business field because I have an issue with Gmail!

I am not against fair competition in any way. I have no problem with competitors' adverts being shown next to my company's results on Search Engines, their adverts being shown next to mine in magazines, etc. just as they always are in business publications. As you say, that is business.

As I have already explained, to me the showing of adverts in my emails to customers appears to me in exactly the same light as the postal service adding competitors' leaflets to my mailshots. This is a business communication between me and a customer. If this is allowed to be a vehicle for my competitors to target their advertising then I should be charging them for it and not Google.

Anyway - since I'm not going to give my competitors the opportunity to use my mail in this way I s'pose it's really academic. Probably a good idea now I've made my point if I just stay away from this discussion.


11:34 am on Apr 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

This is a business communication between me and a customer

If it were then I think it may be against the Gmail TOS - "The Google Services are made available for your personal, non-commercial use only".


1:21 pm on Apr 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member


Let's look at this a different way for a moment then. You're aware of GMail's policies, and for whatever reason you don't agree with them. While you and I may disagree on the validity of that choice, it's still YOUR choice and I accept that.

Therefore, you have the right to not sign up for a GMail account and you have the right not to exchange e-mail with anyone who DOES have a GMail account. Again, no problems here.

What I really have a problem with is when you decide that *your* reasons for not liking service should be good enough for EVERYONE. I don't find GMail intrusive, illegal, wrong, immoral, or anything like that. I look forward to using the service, and I look forward to sending e-mail to other users who use the service, business or personal. That's my choice to do just as much as it's your choice NOT to do.

So the question is ... why can't you mind your own business and leave it alone? I don't mean to sound rude, but really that's all it is. GMail users know the policy, they agree to it when they sign up. It doesn't matter if OTHER PEOPLE don't know the policy and wouldn't agree with it or not - and it's not your job to educate them. YOU DO know the policy, so block GMail at your own mail server and just stay out of it. If you want, you can even configure a cute auto responder to tell any GMail user who tries to e-mail you exactly WHY they're being blocked. You have that right.

Tell me, what is so hard about that? Those of us, like myself, who DON'T disagree with GMail policies are going to be screwed out of a service we're looking forward to using because of people like you who are making a stink about it.

THAT is what I mean by how stupid this argument is. Rather than minding your own business and letting other people do what they want to, you feel like you have to control the Internet. It's not your job.


10:42 pm on Apr 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

"This is a business communication between me and a customer
If it were then I think it may be against the Gmail TOS - "The Google Services are made available for your personal, non-commercial use only"."

Good - that solves that then. The situation will never arise as no one will ever send me a business enquiry from a Gmail account! :)


10:57 pm on Apr 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


Ok, I think I see why we have a misunderstanding here. I never meant to imply that my reasons for disliking Gmail should apply to anyone else. I did say that this was my own personal value judgment and in exactly the same way as just because I don't like anniseed I wouldn't try to start a campaign to get it banned, I doubt if I'd support a plan to get Gmail banned either.

As I said, I find the concept irritating and annoying personally, but I can see it might (probably would) be useful to many advertisers and email users. I wanted to show some support for one point of the points of view made on the thread - actually looking at the title again this probably wasn't the best place to do it since this is about getting Gmail blocked.

And certainly I can avoid the thing altogether. I don't have to sign up to it and there are plenty of other ways of responding to an email.

I just thought your comments on my business skills were out of order. And I certainly never claimed to want to control the internet, email or anything else. I think you have just completely misunderstood where I'm coming from on this issue.

Anyway - yes, pointless as an argument, but I thought it was an interesting discussion just to pick up the different points of view.

Whole idea still annoys the pants off me though :)


4:28 pm on Apr 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

California State Sen. Liz Figueroa, D-Fremont, will introduce a SB 1822, that would require Google to obtain the consent of every user of the new Gmail service before their e-mail messages are scanned for targeted advertising. Figueroa's SB 1822 would forbid the review of e-mail content unless Google or any other e-mail provider first obtains the consent of all the parties to an e-mail conversation.

I think Figueroa has found the Achilles' heel of Gmail. Scanning for spam to come up with a yes/no/maybe determination cannot be equated with the keyword scanning done by Gmail. I don't know what language is proposed to distinguish spam scanning from targeted ad scanning, but I don't think it would be hard to articulate such a distinction.

(Google has not even stated, to the best of my knowledge, whether the keywords from incoming email will be associated with the email address of the sender in their own in-house database.)

If this becomes law, it will probably stop Gmail in its tracks. Extra spin in the privacy policy won't solve this problem.


8:33 pm on Apr 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


<<Those of us, like myself, who DON'T disagree with GMail policies are going to be screwed out of a service we're looking forward to using>>

Not necessarily. Accepting ads in lieu of paying for email is not new. Ads based on email content is new, but if you agree to recieve it that way, it's nobody's business....almost nobody.

<<why can't you mind your own business>>


When I send you a message, I do have a right under most forms of communication to have that message delivered intact and unadorned. And I want to know what you receive because I intended you to receive it as I sent it.

Don't say..."Well, the left side of the page is as you sent it!" In 90+% of email, inserted ads would have no effect on your reading of my letter other than to divert your attention from my message. But in some messages, the insertions could be negative (competitors' ads, inapproriate content...). My mail is important to me as a sender.

I don't get a product jingle when I pick up the phone (yet) or a brouchure inserted into a private letter because until now private communications have an expectation of, well, privacy. That is the crunch. Only on the Net is communication couched in surrounding banners and text ads. But that communication is free....


Many services and ISPs scan, archive, and occasionally mess with email. All any of us need to know is:
a) when our email is going to be scanned and archived (for more than the time needed to forward it), and
b) whether it will be received other than in the form it was sent or with additions.

The WE as SENDERS have a choice too...to pay for privacy.


6:18 pm on May 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Status of the bill:-


This 84 message thread spans 3 pages: 84

Featured Threads

Hot Threads This Week

Hot Threads This Month