Comments: Google Gmail Bill Now In CA Senate

Maybe a scoop, if the press release's "4/21/2004 [...] today introduced a bill" is more accurate/up to date than the status page's "04/20/2004 [...] Re-referred to committee." Or maybe introduced and re-referred are the same thing .

It might be expected from the press release :-

"Instead, the Internet giant would be required to obtain the informed consent of every individual whose e-mails would be "oogled."
But those who send e-mails to Gmail subscribers from elsewhere (like Earthlink or Yahoo!) will not be asked for their consent before the whole e-mail conversation is analyzed.
Figueroa?s SB 1822 would forbid the review of e-mail content unless Google (or any other e-mail provider) first obtains the consent of all the parties to an e-mail conversation."

... that obtaining permission from those who send e-mails to Gmail subscribers from elsewhere ("like Earthlink or Yahoo!") would be sufficient to allow scanning of such e-mails to create contextual adverts.

But in fact the bill as drafted simply bans scanning (except anti-spam, AV, etc) of other subscribers' incoming emails, with or without their permission. Non-subscribers have no choice in the matter :-

"The bill would permit a provider [...] to review and evaluate the content of incoming e-mail or instant messages only from *another subscriber to the same service* and only when that subscriber has consented to the procedure."

[*my emphasis*]

Since same-service subscribers would presumably have to consent (both directions) on signup, the bill would simply require Google (and others who follow) to only scan emails (incoming or outgoing/sent) from their own subscribers.

Is that technically possible?

What about when Gmail subscribers reply to non-subscribers' emails, quoting them in full (hey, snipping may become redundant with 1GB to play with ;)? Are the non-subscribers now/still "parties to an e-mail conversation" re those messages?

What about the subscribers' own emails, forwarded from other their email providers, or imported from a local archive, and thus not distinguished (to the scanner) by a Gmail address From: header?

An easy bill to write: trickier to implement.

Contextual advert scanning is a sideshow, anyway - the real meat is with wider issues, as outlined by
Brad Templeton :-

Posted by Milly at April 22, 2004 11:44 AM

This is the biggest load of crap i have ever seen! Google will obviously have a disclamer or terms of agreement along with their service, that will undoubtably include the fact that a COMPUTER is scanning their e-mails for specific words that trigger side-bar advertisements. Why in the heck is ledislation needed? Forgive my ignorance if I have overlooked anything legal or otherwise.

Posted by David Richter at May 28, 2004 11:36 AM

There is another side: This bill only alows access to the content of emails when "removing spam or for managing computer viruses or other
malicious programs."

But what about a "search" feature? That invloves scanning the contents of the emails, but has noting to do with "malicious" activities.

Even current email services support this, so they too would be outlawed.


Posted by Douglas at June 3, 2004 01:40 PM