To Gmail or not to Gmail

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

I’ve been reading about the privacy concerns that surround Google’s new webmail service, Gmail, with growing irritation. Now, a California legislator wants to ban it before it is even open to the public.

I wish I knew what was behind all this opposition, because it certainly is not logic or reason. I guess people are concerned about Google scanning your e-mail and presenting targeted advertising based on it. Apparently, this innovative, new idea is a privacy disaster in the making.

Come a little closer to your computer and I’ll let you in on a secret: It’s not new. And, the only thing innovative about it is the fact that they admit doing it.

I’ve read the Gmail privacy policy which, just like the service, is still in beta. If you want to read my thoughts on that, look through the comments in the first link of this post. I’m apparently the only one who has also read the privacy policies of Yahoo and Hotmail. You want chilling, browse those two documents for a while. They clearly state that they will gather up as much of your personal information as they can, cross reference it with anyone they can, and share it with anyone they want. And, they will use that information to provide you with targeted advertising. No where does it say they will not scan or read your e-mail. Google, at least, draws a line: a computer will scan your messages, but a human will never read them.

Let’s also try not to forget this is an opt-in service. If privacy groups want to get the message out so that people are informed about what they are signing up for, that’s great. Legislation to block the service is just silly. I understand the risks, and I’m ready to sign up. I don’t need to be protected from my own choices.