GMail in Trouble Already

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.

Privacy International

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?