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Friday, April 16th, 2004

Hitting the Fan, Again & Again – A Gmail Update

 

There have been a great deal of news since last week’s issue on the advent of Google’s controversial Gmail system created to compete with Yahoo! Mail and MSN’s Hotmail. The news can be summarized quickly; upheaval.

Here are some examples of what has occurred since our last newsletter (April 7):

1/ US Senator Liz Figueroa of California launches a legal attack on Google’s email scanning technology citing serious privacy concerns. Figueroa notes Gmail scanning is like “having a massive billboard in the middle of your home.”

2/ Privacy International complained loudly to the UK’s Information Commissioner regarding Gmail’s intrusive email scanning and lack of compliance with data protection legislation in Europe. This compliance issue was focused on Gmail’s terms of service which does not allow users to delete email permanently… in fact emails will reside on Gmail servers long after an account is closed!

To date the response from the UK Information Commissioner is that Google will not be penalized if it is upfront with these privacy issues during signup; don’t expect privacy advocates to let this lie.

3/ The Market Age, a company based in the UK has claimed ownership of the Gmail name, legal action will be forthcoming.

The Result (to date)

In true Google style the company reminds the public that Gmail is in a 3-6 month test period and that it will be open to tester suggestions. That aside, Google is “batting about” ideas for satisfying privacy complaints before the product goes public.

Intentions

What does this mean for you and why does StepForth care so much about Gmail? Simply put, email scanning could launch an entirely different marketing segment that will mean mountains of additional publicity for pay-per-click clientele. This type of advertising could have an altered ‘tint’ as users begin to relate it to the hated spam email; not exactly a benefit to the honest PPC advertiser. It also suggests that there is no limit to privacy invasion as long as it is conducted by automated and “non-malicious” software. Frankly, the potential precedence here scares the hell out of me!

BONUS: Here is a screenshot of the Gmail interface posted by a Google employee

(Note: opens in new window and if it appears garbled just expand the window to the full size of your screen)


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