Privacy International have complained to the UK Information Commissioner about Google’s GMail service – specifically the technology that scans incoming emails and incorporates targeted advertising.
Google says on the GMail site that the process is automated and no human ever reads subscribers’ emails.
Regardless of whether it reads the emails or not, Google will be able to harvest a huge amount of metrics relating to the demographic profile, shopping habits and social behaviour about every one of its GMail subscribers. This information will be tremendously valuable when sold to third parties, who will then know what adverts you’ve seen on any particular day, what links you follow and how active you are on the internet. Long gaps in logging in might even be a good indication of which time of year you prefer to go on holiday.
Privacy International are also not impressed by the following statement in GMail’s privacy statement: “Residual copies of email may remain on our systems, even after you have deleted them from your mailbox or after the termination of your account.” However, this statement is true of almost every email service in existence – free or otherwise.
The only person who is going to look out for your privacy on the internet is you: if you use a service, always assume that the provider can access everything you write, store or read on there – and also assume that groups outside the service can also access it, whether you intend to or not.