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Gmail too creepy?

© June 2004 Tony Lawrence

I recently did a Review of Gmail and also mentioned that some folks are very worried about the privacy concerns associated with Google storing their mail. The obvious retort to that is "don't use Gmail", but it goes farther than that, because people are worried about Google storing email SENT to Gmail accounts. The folks at https://gmail-is-too-creepy.com/ raise questions like:

How about words such as "box cutters" in the same email as "airline
schedules"? Can you think of anyone who might be interested in
obtaining a list of email addresses for that particular combination?

They recommend blocking all mail originating from gmail.com. That's only political protest, though: it can't stop your email conversations from ending up in Gmail's data bases. If you mail to me at my regular address, it can redirect to gmail. I can send to you from a non-gmail address and bcc my gmail account. Our entire conversation ends up in gmail, just as it would if you were not blocking.

If you really are concerned about corporate storage of your email, you need to block more than Gmail: the very same issues exist with Yahoo mail, AOL and MSN mail and a host of others. Also, many institutions now have legal requirements to archive ALL email they send and receive.


Interestingly, one of the concerns voiced by the Gmail-is-too-creepy folks is that Google's contextual ad matching doesn't always work very well. I don't follow this argument. If anything, this shows the silliness of worrying about email data-mining for nefarious means: it's often difficult for a human being to reach accurate conclusions from reading someone else's writings; electronic pattern matching isn't all that useful anyways.

Of course, the day may come when some government body can analyze my email and decide that I am a risk to the State. Well, heck, they don't need Gmail for that. Wherever my email lives, it can be tracked down, resurrected from backup, extracted real time, etc. And if you are one of my correspondents, your email would be filtered and scanned too. Better protect yourself right now: send me email lambasting me for belonging to the ACLU and for voting for liberal candidates. But there's no increased risk to either of us because of Gmail.

On a less sinister note, advertiser mining of email databases certainly could be a source of privacy abuse. But again, there's nothing special about Gmail in that regard: Yahoo and MSN could sell you out just as easily as Gmail could. The Gmail-is-too-creepy people say that current law doesn't protect us - if so, it doesn't protect us from AOL or Hotmail or anyone else.

If you think I'm missing something, please do let me know. The "Add comment" link is right below this.

Got something to add? Send me email.

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Well, sounds like the beginning of a huge upsurge in encrypted email...


I don't see it. Why would the advent of Gmail make you feel you need to encrypt mail when Yahho and AOL have not?


---August 26, 2004

People who are concerned about their privacy perhaps shouldn't be using the internet as a medium of communication. They certainly shouldn't be using webmail.
I use gmail, and if the need for privacy arises, I'll start using it with PGP. I'll be suprised if any data-mining utilities break pgp just to show me an advert.

-Joodas@gmail.com (26.8.04)

---August 30, 2004

Ah yeah, I like the idea of ads coming along with encrypted emails. They could either not understand that the content is scrambled, and just give some similarly scrambled ad message for "z45xz443zx24d5f465sd4.com", or they could just send ads for encryption tools to everything deemed encrypted. Gmail is gona be the same as hotmail but cooler.


---September 1, 2004

Hi, umm in short your an idiot... I don’t use Gmail but I can assure you Hotmail, Yahoo, M-Box, Optus, AOL and every single public mail service there is does this...

>THE ONLY< issue is with Police intervening to read your mail, that’s it... not the ability for any one to read it JUST THE POLICE... for the police to do this they need a warrant connecting you directly to something that involves the use of your e-mail account. If they did obtain a warrant it wouldn’t matter if u had Hotmail or any other mailing service they can still read your mail and read your erased messages.

Your information is really dumb... And can I ask why any one would review something that’s currently in beta? I mean do you eat half cooked chicken? Do you get half dressed then walk out of the house??? I mean not even an idiot would walk out half way through a movie then review it... So... why are you reviewing G-mail?

Thank you for your time, feel free to go back to counting your fingers.

T.L Whistler, Legal Studies Professor (UNSW)

---September 1, 2004

I think Mr. Whistler is the idiot :-)

He's reading a review, and responding to some comments as though they were written by the person making the review.

And I don't think he actually read the review..

Duh :-)

Tony Lawrence

---September 3, 2004
hahahaha what an idiot? the guys blog talks about NOT worrying about gmail cause it no diferent then hotmail or aol so what they hell are you smoking? Also there lots of reasons to review a beta and it happens to lots of stuff, it gives people an idea of what the final product will be like and a preview of what to expect. Now stop making an idiot of yourself.

---September 16, 2004

Mr Whistler, yes, I eat "half-cook" beef, and IT professionals use beta software.

If you need privacy, you should not use email at all.

By the way, I went to UNSW as well and I don't thing you are professor there.

---November 27, 2004

https://www.gmail-is-too-creepy.com/ is Dead ... not suprised

- Tekjock

Sat Apr 23 14:06:27 2005: 363   TonyLawrence


These morons have surfaced again: (link)

Stupid, stupid, stupid. That's about all that needs to be said. If there is any problem at all, it's with privacy laws, and not Gmail itself.

Sun Oct 26 04:48:21 2008: 4688   anonymous

Don't post bullsh* that you can't back up. There DO NOT exist the "same issues" as with gmail anywhere but GMAIL. AOL, MSN, and Yahoo do NOT keep your email "forever"; I asked AOL a long time ago how long they keep it before they delete it and they told me finite number, whereas GMail will NOT ever promise to delete even email that you select as "delete forever" in the trash area. Furthermore, if you ask MobileMe (Apple) if they ever remove things completely off their servers, they say YES by midnight the night you delete it from their servers. It is longer than that for AOL but it is definitely REMOVED. Google won't promise to ever remove a thing if you ask their attorneys. EPIC.org did just that and received back just a lot of hemming and hawing.

See (link)

It's not just "gmail is too creepy" and their site who have complained and EPIC does NOT complain about these other hosts you have discussed because they're NOT violating people's privacy and keeping email permanently like Gmail does. Google's founders include a guy who did a grad studies program on DATA MINING. They are not good actors and are not interested in privacy.

If you want to believe everything Google does is wonderful, fine but you have your head in the sand. They are not behaving with normal standards of decency with regard to privacy and they hope that others will follow their lead, but others have not YET. And I hope they don't. People like you lying about the situation aren't helping anything. Don't post at all if you don't know what the freak you are talking about. We don't need everyone like AOL to change and start following Gmail over idiots announcing it's ok with everyone if they do, and you're making it sound like it's ok with you when these other companies have NOT surrendered our privacy yet, unlike Google, who are scums. I really despise the way Google's lawyers write their wormy privacy policies and I can't stand Gmail because of their weasel words deceiving people with the DELETE FOREVER option in the trash area which they won't promise actually deletes it from Google. I will never do business with google until they start taking customer privacy seriously, and that is not going to happen because they're run by data miners who disrespect the public, are sneaky, and deceitful about their intent. No company should put "delete forever" as an option on their software and then keep copies of your email around without telling you. Despicable.

You settle for way too little and your willful ignorance is hurting all the rest of us who want to settle for more. I am not going to give up my privacy and I will not write to people who have gmail accounts.

Sun Oct 26 11:10:24 2008: 4689   TonyLawrence


Let me repeat:

If you really are concerned about corporate storage of your email, you need to block more than Gmail: the very same issues exist with Yahoo mail, AOL and MSN mail and a host of others. Also, many institutions now have legal requirements to archive ALL email they send and receive.

If your concern is privacy, a "finite number" is just as "dangerous" as "forever".


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