Here’s yet another take on GMail privacy – Privacy Subtleties of GMail. This time it comes from a guy who had to balance his opinion between two polar sides he is at:
I come to this problem from two sides. One, I’m a fan of Google, and have been friends with Google’s management since they started the company. I’ve also consulted for Google on other matters and make surprising revenue from their Adsense program on my web site.
I’m also a privacy advocate and Chairman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, well regarded as one of the top civil rights advocates in cyberspace. The EFF has issued some statements of privacy concern over GMail, though we declined joining the coalition against it. (I’m writing this as my own essay, though with some advice from the EFF team.) I’ve also had a chance to talk at length with Google President Larry Page about some of the issues.
Mark Rasch shares his GMail concerns in the article at Security Focus titled The Trouble with Gmail.
perhaps the most ominous thing about the proposed Gmail service is the often-heard argument that it poses no privacy risk because only computers are scanning the e-mail. I would argue that it makes no difference to our privacy whether the contents of communications are read by people or by computers programmed by people.
Tim O’Reilly is always a worthy read. Here are some quotes.
On the future of storage:
I remember Bob Morris, head of IBM’s Storage Division and the Almaden Research Labs, telling me a couple of years ago, that before too long, storage would be cheap enough and small enough that someone who wanted to do so could film every moment of his life, and carry the record around in a pocket. Scary? Maybe. But the future is always scary to those who cling to the past. It is enormously exciting if you focus on the possibilities. Just think how much value Google and other online information providers have already brought to all of our lives — the ability to find facts, in moments, from a library larger than any of us could have imagined a decade ago.
On the future of computers:
At my conference on peer-to-peer networking, web services, and distributed computation back in 2001, Clay Shirky, reflecting on “Lessons from Napster”, retold the old story about Thomas J. Watson, founder of the modern IBM. “I see no reason for more than five of these machines in the world,” Watson is reputed to have said. “We now know that he was wrong,” Clay went on. The audience laughed knowingly, thinking of the hundreds of millions, if not billions, of computers deployed worldwide. But then Clay delivered his punch line: “We now know that he overstated the number by four.”
Pioneers like Google are remaking the computing industry before our eyes. Google of course isn’t one computer — it’s a hundred thousand computers, by report — but to the user, it appears as one.
I think I’ve uncovered another conspiracy by Google, particularly with their context sensitive advertising service AdSense. It’s not a bad conspiracy – as far as I am concerned, they are trying to do a good thing. But still, it’s a mean way to go about it.
A reader of this blog left a comment to one of my earlier posts about media brain wash, a story about Dell notebook exploding at some conference. Jon agreed with me that this story was a pure media hype. In his comment he said exactly this:
Now it won’t be long before some terrorist hops on a plane with Dell laptop batteries strapped all over his body. I agree, this story is media hype.
In order for me not to miss any comments, and to respond faster to my readers, the moment any of your post a comment, I get an email notification. As you know, recently I moved all my email affairs to Google’s mail service GMail. Now, Google uses its own AdSense service to show ads to people while they are reading their emails. The content of the email is used to determine which related ads should be shown.
When I openned a notification email with Jon’s comment I was shown four ads on the right. All four ad links were about notebooks. Two links were generic, but two others featured a brand. And although the brand in the content of the email was Dell, both branded ads were about IBM.
Now, you might think that this is just a coinsidence. But for two links out of four? I don’t think so. What is more probable is that Google undestood that Dell brand was used in connection with terrorism and tried to substitute that for IBM. Probably that was an attempt to sell non-explosive items to terrorists. Thanks Google, but no thanks.
NOTE (this note should have been written a very small font, but since noone will read so far down, I’ll leave it as it is): please, don’t take this entry seriously. I’m just messing with you.
I have finished my migration to GMail process. I have all my email archives uploaded, marked as read, and most of the messages labeled. Of course, as with any migration, there were some rough edges and few messages just didn’t make it through, while a few others were dumped into archives without being properly categorized. But overall I am happy. Those few messages that didn’t get through were probably useless anyway. And categorization is not vital anymore with Google search engine behind the inbox.
‘All Mail’ suggests that I have slightly more than 20,000 discussions. In terms of space usage, I am at 42% – 1156 MB used out of 2754 MB. That’s not too bad. My current new mail rate is not that high, and GMail is constantly increasing the size of the mailbox. I think it’ll be enough. If nothing else, I know how have a lot of stuff that I can delete to clean up some space. Some of the messages date as far back as 1999 – surely there’s something that I won’t even miss.