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April 04, 2004

GMail: When Monkeys Fly Out of My Butt!

Just one little catch with Gmail: Google's computers will be scanning your messages and sending you ads based on message content. (I guess I'd get Preparation H ads for that title.) Hey, I trust them--not. Though the company claims it won't read users' email or share personal information--please.

Google compares Gmail to spam filters, "which have been used for years without raising privacy concerns." Talk about not getting the picture. Talk about confusing form with function! A spam filter is designed to protect you, based on incoming mail. It is not designed to bring commercials into your personal communications. I give it to them for moxy and creativity. Big Brother married Clear Channel, and begat Gmail.

This merry disregard for privacy is not restricted to commerce. I also didn't register with the Do Not Call database, after reading its privacy policy.

Aside: I've heard talk about librarians having hackfests to think through interesting problems. I think we could use some breakout sessions for thinkfests or ethicsfests or even just letstalkcommonsenseinthedigitalenvironmentfests.

I still remember the time at some library back in the day I installed this Really Kewl Tool that showed me in real-time every action patrons were taking at our Internet computers. I could see every site, every page they were linking to. I showed it to my boss, who said, "very nice--now don't use that again." Exactly.

Posted by kgs at April 4, 2004 09:59 AM

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Thank you, Karen! I thought I was the only one who did not find this idea all peachy keen. Apart from the privacy concerns, what about the irritation level of any ads showing up when I am sending mail?

Amazing how the right hand of Google gives us the search bar with pop-up blocker while the left hand dangles G-mail.

Posted by: Anne Knight at April 5, 2004 09:18 AM

I thought about getting a Google email account. I already have a Yahoo account. It might be convenient, and it has 1,012Mb free storage space compared to 4MB for Yahoo. And apparently the other internet email providers are considering ending their free service. Nobody has to sign up for it, but I guess I might be willing to try it out.

Posted by: Stephen Denney at April 5, 2004 04:21 PM

Great post. As beguiling as 1GB of space for email sounds, the privacy issues are not to be taken lightly. And there is absolutely no way they could keep themselves from selling the aggregated data, even if they promise to strip the personal identifiers from it -- the info is just too lucrative.

And on a minor note: this could render the Tivo/Amazon factor (where you program or show interest in one particular item, and the interface starts shoving all manner of items, theoretically based on the same subject, at you) particularly galling.

Posted by: Eli at April 6, 2004 03:30 PM