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April 13, 2004

Gmail: email Gspot or Gmen?

Posted 4 years, 4 months ago on April 13, 2004
Much has been made in the past dozen days about Google's announcement of their new service, Gmail.

First, the press release was leaked on April 1st, leading to wide speculation: was it an April Fool's gag, or was it not? (It wasn't.)

Then nobody could believe that the world's largest search and storage machine was going to open their disks to thousand, nay, millions of the world's hoi polloi to store all the email they could possible want - [cue Ron Popeil voice] - one THOUSAND megabytes of storage. And that's not all!

The idea of being able to apply Google's search technology to up to 1000 megabytes of email - let's say, oh, spam - set many an anti-spammer's hearts aflutter.

Yes, Google had truly hit the email enthusiast's sweet spot.

Or had they?

You see, Google plans to underwrite this free service by scanning the content of your email, and then including their targetted AdSense ads (you know, the ones you see in the right-hand margin of every Google search results page, and just about every blog, including this one) in your email. Did you get that? They are going to check the contents of your email, then target the ads which they include in your email based on what your email says.

Now, there is nothing new about telling users that in exchange for their use of your free email service, they have to eat the ads you feed them. But usually these are in the form of banners, click-through links, or those ever-annoying pop-ups. Never before has an ISP actually admitted to reading its customers' email, even if only electronically (Google has said that they will only let computers scan the contents of your email, not real live employees, nor, presumably, the Google page rank pigeons). 2004, meet 1984.

Well, quicker than you can say "Holy Watergate, Gman", California State Senator Liz Figeroa was urging Google to abandon their "misbegotten idea", Germany was declaring it forbidden under German law, and the UK's Privacy International was calling it "a vast violation of European law".

To be fair to Google, their terms of service for Gmail include quite clearly that "[t]he contents of your Gmail account also are stored and maintained on Google servers in order to provide the service. Google's computers process the information in your email for various purposes, including formatting and displaying the information to you, delivering targeted related information (such as advertisements and related links), preventing unsolicited bulk email (spam), backing up your email, and other purposes relating to offering you Gmail." Source: Gmail Privacy Policy So in theory, at least, a user has agreed to let Google ravage their email in exchange for the free service.

Of course, this information is buried in their privacy policy, and not on the much more public Gmail page, and who knows whether it is something which users actually have to read (let alone affirmatively consent to) during the sign-up process.

If Ms. Figueroa has her way, we'll never find out.
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Re: Gmail: email Gspot or Gmen?

Posted 4 years, 4 months ago by David • • • Reply

I've read many things about the Google team, about many of them in real life and I use thier services daily, I wouldn't mind one iota if they scanned my email as long as there was no human interaction involved. If I need to send something private, I'll encrypt it, and moreso not use a free service. I assume they'll come out with a pay service too, which will obviously get rid of the ads and thus the scanning. We'll see what happens, but this should be interesting. Overall I'm still very pleased with Google, and I think I'll go see if I can sign up for Gmail right now.

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Re: Gmail: email Gspot or Gmen?

Posted 4 years, 4 months ago by J@Y • • • Reply

I think Google is great in any way, shape, or form. I believe its going to be even more popular now with this email service. I would agree to the scanning of the emails. Ditto on the "without human intervention". If you do not have anything to hide, then there should not be any problems. If more people knew what kind of power Google is packing, and the tech that goes behind it. They would jump right on the bandwagon. ...

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Re: Gmail: email Gspot or Gmen?

Posted 4 years, 4 months ago by Ted Bruner • @ • • Reply

My real concern with a service such as this would be how it would respond to unsolicited mail getting past their filters. I do not use Viagra (I've seen "About Schmidt" enough times to know that, at my age, ... well ...) ...But, theoretically at least, one - or a few - unsolicited adds could cause my right side to become filled with crappola completely unuseful to me while things I might have sufficient interest to consider may be "bumped" in favor ot the crappola.

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Re: Gmail: email Gspot or Gmen?

Posted 4 years, 4 months ago by Bob • @ • • Reply

I agree with Ted Bruner that if they scan your "bulk" or spam folder it would result in lots of incorrectly directed ads. Has anyone asked google how the computer will tell the difference between your email and spam??

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Re: Gmail: email Gspot or Gmen?

Posted 4 years, 4 months ago by andy • @wwwReply

Why are people up in arms about this? Every web based email service HAS to read your email in order to convert it to text in a ledgible format on the page. So what if they pick a few keywords out on the way and use it to display adwords... surely that's better than having a million and one flashing banners like you get with hotmail? If Google doing this is a violation of privacy laws then EVERY web based email provider is breaking privacy laws. Heh... it would have been funny if it was an April fools joke and all these people got uppity about nothing... :D

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Re: Gmail: email Gspot or Gmen?

Posted 4 years, 4 months ago by jglass • • • Reply

Me thinks I will stay with Surf the net . GBush could have used something like Gmail. Then all the gmen would have know who were planning 9/11.You can bet They didn't use the telephone to communicate!

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Re: Gmail: email Gspot or Gmen?

Posted 4 years, 4 months ago by Master • @wwwReply

Yes, and its too bad the technology wasn't available for Slick Willie Clinton so that he could have busted BinLaden and his cronies. And Hillary "Douchebag" Clinton could have used it to find some more people to have Billy pardon on his last day.

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Re: Gmail: email Gspot or Gmen?

Posted 4 years, 4 months ago by Rob Banks • @ • • Reply

Umm, reading my mail? No thanks! How many of you compliant suckers would let the snail mail services read your mail? None I bet. So what is the difference with email? The only thing they need to read is the address to make sure you get what is yours, thats all. And I have to email businesses, those emails may contain other business names or products, so I want to be paid for 'providing information' Google may not otherwise have. Remember Google is the only one who is going to profit from their 'Free' service, what we get is our email and probably a load of junk.

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Re: Gmail: email Gspot or Gmen?

Posted 4 years, 4 months ago by Stu • • • Reply

No one have ever said that email was like snail mail sealed in an envelope. More like a postcard- and we all know that no one ever reads other peoples postcards... Every email service that scans for viri already is doing what Google plans to do- Google is simply "relating" ads to the content. As others have said, it it is that private, I'll encrypt it.

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Re: Gmail: email Gspot or Gmen?

Posted 4 years, 4 months ago by eamon • • • Reply

don't be a git. Google is offering a free service. To subsidise that, they add ad-content to your email. No more or less than yahoo or hotmail do currently. The only difference being they add "targeted" content. If you have a problem with this, don't use it. It's as simple as that. As far as the USPS goes, they are a government service, thus we have a "reasonable expectation of privacy." Google is not, nor does it claim to be, a government service of any sort. They are a free-enterprise corporate entity out to make money. In order to do so, they think "outside the box" and provide services that are truly useful. So, again, I say, don't use it. It won't hurt you at all.

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Re: Gmail: email Gspot or Gmen?

Posted 4 years, 4 months ago by Karen • • wwwReply

I am right in there. This e-mail address does not have to be published, just use it for storage. My e-mail client is full of saved e-mail and I just can't wait to forward all the keepers, mostly newsletters that thousands of actual humans have read right along with me.

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Re: Gmail: email Gspot or Gmen?

Posted 4 years, 4 months ago by G • • • Reply

To me, this is no different than an ISP blocking potential spam. Still has to read your email looking for patterns. Same thing. Google could say every fifth email is published on our server; that's fine, it is their server and the cost is free. Just my $.02.

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Re: Gmail: email Gspot or Gmen?

Posted 4 years, 4 months ago by Pete • • • Reply

How do you think that Yahoo and Hotmail spam blockers work? They just guess that an email is spam, and trash it for you? No! The computer reads the mail and uses some heuristics to flag it as good or spam. What Google plans to do is hardly different, they just use the flag to show a particular ad instead of (or inclusive to) mark it as spam. I really don't understand why some groups are so worked up about this.

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Google's Googly?

Posted 4 years, 4 months ago by Teju • • • Reply

What the Heck..... Does it need to be discussed at all? Use it only if you want to. If you dont want the 1GB space, someone else is always to have it for you.... Simple aint it?

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Re: Gmail: email Gspot or Gmen?

Posted 4 years, 4 months ago by She Devil • • • Reply

For those of you interested, I just posted my first impressions of my Gmail account here: http://www.slamaspammer.com/blog/?postid=10 She Devil

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Re: Gmail: email Gspot or Gmen?

Posted 4 years, 4 months ago by Burt Wood • @ • • Reply

Hey, I can't wait till Gmail is avaiable1 All that storage space and a seach engine to find what i want. sensational! Of course, 'll use myregular email to send istuuf out -and give anyone I really want to contact me privately a secure adress, but let them read all the rest and I prove to be as good at ignoring any of their adds as I am will the millions of others I ignore on the web, Tv, newspapers, phone call, etc,

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Re: Gmail: email Gspot or Gmen?

Posted 4 years, 4 months ago by Revenant • • • Reply

Just had a thought re. the ads... I never see any Google ads any more due to the Adblock extension I use in Firefox. If Gmail displays ads in a similar way, there would be no downside to using it... ;)

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