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Redirect new mail to gmail (or any service)
Authored by: wibs on Jun 22, '04 08:23:29PM

Most of the privacy concerns are moot, I think. Relatively speaking, they're not doing anything different from MSN, Yahoo, or any other free email provider when it comes to your email content. How do you think spam blockers work? By NOT scanning your email somehow?

The entire difference lies in two things: 1) AdWords 2) Google being open and honest about their practices and intentions.

People don't like the contents of their emails being used for marketing purposes. I can respect that, but on the other hand I think it leads to a general improvement of the web. For example, I've been looking into switching web hosts recently, and was talking about it with a friend via email. Right next to my friend's email, which listed a couple of hosts he had heard good things about, was an AdWords provided list of web hosts. To me, that's an excellent thing - direct, unobtrusive, and relevant advertising. The web doesn't work for free any more folks, and more relevant advertising leads to more clicks, which leads to more buys, which leads to more money for the site that originally had the banner. More money for the site means better features and service. To me, that's win-win.

So this brings up the question of HOW they scan your email. Quite frankly, I see absolutely nothing wrong with it up until the point that they start databasing and cataloging what I talk about. The nice part is, they don't do that. Now you might read somewhere that Google's policies are subject to change. Ignoring the fact that EVERY free service on the internet has policies subject to change, Google can't even change the one everyone is worried about.

Google is in California, and California passed a bill specifically targeted at GMail that will "explicitly allow e-mail and instant-messaging providers to scan the content of messages to deliver advertisements, as long as the providers meet certain restrictions on how the data is used. Information gleaned from e-mails cannot be retained, shared with a third party, or shown to any employee or other "natural person." In addition, messaging providers must permanently delete messages at the request of customers." (source)

So I ask, in what way is this any worse, in any way whatsoever, than any other free email service?

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Is Gmail "Creepier" Than Any Other Service?
Authored by: iRideSnow on Jun 23, '04 12:01:05AM

I don't disagree that Gmail is any worse than any other free email service. I was going to say that in my original response, but forgot. Personally, I don't use them either.

What I find particularly "creepy" is the following little diddy from the site:

"After 180 days in the U.S., email messages lose their status as a protected communication under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and become just another database record. This means that a subpoena instead of a warrant is all that's needed to force Google to produce a copy."

I might not want a particular email from 5, 10, 15, 20 years ago that I've completely forgotten about to be made available to my soon-to-be-ex-wife's lawyer during a custody battle or something like that.

The fact that Google, and now other email providers, are offering so much space means that people are more likely to simply never delete an email. I've never really understood why people do that, but I know a lot of people who do just that. I don't do it and I run my own server where I could literally store 100G of my own email correspondence if I wanted to. Anyway, Google is betting on people not deleting their emails. Their intentions are perfectly acceptable to me. But it's the potential for possible abuse that I find disturbing.

Check out this story from NPR:

I heard her interviewed as well and the kicker is, she claims to have had permission from at least her immediate superior to do this! Not that she had any nefarious intent, just like Google doesn't. But still, the potential for abuse is certainly there. Now, this law you cited would seem to preclude that kind of abuse, which is good. Of course, certain safeguards would need to be put in place to ensure random employees aren't able to access these huge databases. I trust that will be done. But I'd still like it spelled out by the email provider that they are doing that.

I haven't totally thought this through, but what I'd like to see is Google, and every other email service, provide a way for the user to encrypt their own emails with a key provided BY THE USER. Perhaps the user would need to pay for this service. The user could then select which emails to allow the provider to scan and index for their database, and which were not to be scanned. In addition, emails sent to the user would be guaranteed to not be scanned, or rather not indexed and added to the user's "advertising" database, or however they have it arranged. The point is, don't scan a person's email and add things to it which were not requested by the originator of the email. If you're a Gmail user, you've implicitly requested it by signing up for their service. If you're an outsider SENDING an email to a Gmail user, you haven't requested it. But as I understand it, it's going to happen anyway. Perhaps I'm wrong on that.

Hmmm, I wonder how long it will be before various email clients start providing filters to strip out Google ads from gmail user's emails?


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Is Gmail "Creepier" Than Any Other Service?
Authored by: wibs on Jun 23, '04 03:46:17AM

Well, what you're saying makes perfect sense - if you want your stuff to stay private, you don't rely on someone else to store it and transfer it, regardless of how secure they might say they are. That applies to everything, be it email or your grandmother's broach in a deposit box at the bank. Whenever you depend on someone else to take care of something, you have to trust them.

The only thing that bugs me is how people somehow find Google less trustworthy than, let's say, Microsoft. Normally I wouldn't care about some random person's delusional paranoia, except that all of this google-is-creepy nonsense is actually getting gmail addresses blacklisted because people don't want to send email to a gmail account and have it stored forever. gmail is so good it is actually tempting me to switch away from Apple's Mail, even though OmniWeb is my primary browser so I have to launch Safari just to access it. I don't want an email service I like so much to become unusable because some sheeple don't do research.

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Is Gmail "Creepier" Than Any Other Service?
Authored by: flipflop on Jun 23, '04 08:17:45AM

This seems to be a common misconception that people have. Gmail does *not* put ads in the email that Gmail users send out. When a Gmail user opens an email, there is an AdWords box off to the right of the email showing 'related' ads. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less.

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Is Gmail "Creepier" Than Any Other Service?
Authored by: iRideSnow on Jun 23, '04 04:11:19PM

I think it's a reasonable mistake for users to make. All of the ads (or little extras, whatever you want to call them) that you see when using other email services are appended directly onto the end of the email, and sometimes prepended at the beginning. If gmail's mechanism is different, only displaying ads to the user reading the email through gmail's web interface, then good for them. That's a step in the right direction, imo. I wonder if they'll offer email forwarding to external accounts? If so, what do they do about the ads in those case?

The underlying problem is still there though. That is, saving emails forever without user-controlled encryption is kind of creepy to me. If that's what people want, then they should go for it. I just think they should at least consider the possible (unlikely, I admit) long-term complications that could result. It's not for me. And I don't like knowing that emails that I've sent to gmail, or any other large-storage email provider, are going to be kept in perpetuity. Not that I would expect any problems as a result, but still, it fits the definition of 'creepy' for me. But, to each his own.


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Is Gmail "Creepier" Than Any Other Service?
Authored by: risc_abacus on Jun 24, '04 01:39:42AM
Gmail Creapy? Its run buy the guy who runs google watch... and he hates google because he didn't like his page ranking... checking out I don't trust Gmail is Creapy nor Google Watch, I have more faith in Google than I have in Daniel Brandt.

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