gmail privacy concerns

Allison Marles apm at
Wed Jan 12 10:39:03 EST 2005

On Tue, Jan 11, 2005 at 10:54:10PM -0600, Mark Allums wrote:
> Roger Burton West wrote:
> >It's a web-based email service run by Google, which famously offers a
> >gigabyte of storage. They claim it's free, but put advertisements round
> >the side of your mail while you're reading it; they use the content of
> >the mail to decide which advertisements to show you, and for
> >unspecified other purposes. I am having nothing to do with it, and nor
> >am I sending personal correspondence to addresses.
> A little paranoid, perhaps?  The advertising comes from software looking 
> for keywords;  no human sees any mail except the sender and recipient. 
> There are no "unspecified other purposes".
> I agree with you that you probably shouldn't send highly private 
> correspondence to a gmail adress---you shouldn't send highly private 
> correspodence by email at all, as anyone can read it at the various 
> choke points along the route, such as someone at your ISP who happens to 
> have voyeuristic tendencies.  (If you must, there is the encryption option.)
> --Mark A.

There are some valid, non-paranoid reasons to look into the privacy
concerns.  The Electronic Privacy Information Centre has a good FAQ
about Gmail, that I recommend everyone who uses or plans to use 
Gmail read:

In particular, many of the more worrisome features of Gmail (unlimited
data retention, automated content extraction, cross-service information
sharing, etc) have some serious potential misuses which are *not*
guaranteed against either by law or by a policy from google.  As the
FAQ points out, it is actually potentially far more invasive of privacy
for a computer (rather than a human) to read your email since a computer
has the ability to remember and store a profile on you based on your 
emails (both sent and received).  The use of this profile can
potentially be a *huge* privacy issue.  There is a lot more discussed
in the FAQ, so I recommend anyone who intends to use Gmail or send email
to Gmail users take a look at it, at least briefly. 

There are some other free 1GB storage webmail services which do not have content
extraction.  You might check out some of them instead:


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