Google’s email sca…, er, scheme

Google’s email sca…, er, scheme

Google plans to finance its new ‘free’ email service by smart advertising. I had naively assumed the targeting would be done by reading the message headers. But no: it seems the company plans to machine-scan the content of messages. This makes Gmail a non-starter for people like me. And a consortium of privacy activists have written to the company to express a similar view.

In the words of this report,

“A coalition of 28 privacy and civil liberties groups wrote Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page a letter Tuesday urging them to think again about the service, which they said sets potentially dangerous precedents for the automated scanning of private communications. The service may conflict with European privacy laws, and should be suspended until privacy issues are addressed, they wrote.

The letter’s signatories include the World Privacy Forum, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Bits of Freedom, the Consumer Federation of America, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Foundation for Information Policy Research and Privacy International.

When Google announced the Gmail service on March 31, the Mountain View, Calif., company said it will scan the text of all incoming e-mail in order to place appropriate advertisements. This is a bad idea, according to the privacy campaigners, because ‘The scanning of confidential email violates the implicit trust of an email service provider’.”