April 02, 2004

Google Gmail and privacy

Google's Gmail service announcement is the buzz of the day. As I read about it, I can't help thinking:

Y'know, this is really scary.

Most of the articles I've seen take the view that, well, there's already credit-card companies and cellphone call records and all sorts of data collections already, etc. etc.

But what seems to be missed is that the sheer scale of centralization of Google's service is frightening. Every message you send, every message you receive, in ONE PLACE, tagged and sorted and indexed, with a history of who sent it to you and who you sent it to (traffic analysis!) ...

And correlate it all with your web-searching, and your social network (Orkut) and your shopping (ads).

From one point of view, this is great, think of the technical tricks that can be done with the data. From another point of view, this is a tracking horror waiting to happen, think of the technical tricks that can be done with the data.

I can recite the Libertarian line by heart, so save me the stock noise - it's a private company, it's not the government, don't like it don't use it, stop thinking about it.

But if the US Post Office offered such a service - or even if Microsoft offered such a service - I suspect that people would be willing to think more about it.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on April 02, 2004 06:38 AM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
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I hadn't really thought of that, but you are right...Google will know an awful lot about you. On some level though, I feel more inclined to trust Google with that sort of stuff than MS (monopolist, shady business tactics, lousy product) or the USPS (still pseudo-governmental, iffy track record (at least around these parts)). I realize that Google is, first and foremost, a business and will do what they've got to for the bottom line, but for some reason, they come across as a bunch of good guys who came up with a really cool idea and made good on it. Whether that's just clever marketing or real deal is something I don't know.

Posted by: Matt Krause at April 4, 2004 11:39 PM


Let me introduce ourselves. We are the operators of www.gmails.co.uk . On the site you will see a brand new Google Gmail question and answer forum which we intend to build on with membership in the future. We wish to build a team of experts at a forum for this exciting new product.

John Carver

Posted by: John Carver at April 10, 2004 01:03 PM