The Fuss About Gmail

Many well-articulated and legitimate criticisms of gmail’s implications for privacy are circulating, and 28 privacy groups have co-written a letter to Google asking them to reconsider the plan. In a brilliant rebuttal, always level-headed Tim O’Reilly writes The Fuss About Gmail and Privacy: Nine Reasons Why It’s Bogus.

There are already hundreds of millions of users of hosted mail services at AOL, Hotmail, MSN, and Yahoo! These services routinely scan all mail for viruses and spam. Despite the claims of critics, I don’t see that the kind of automated text scanning that Google would need to do to insert context-sensitive ads is all that different from the kind of automated text scanning that is used to detect spam. (And in fact, those oppressed by spam should look forward to having Google’s brilliant search experts tackle spam detection as part of their problem set!)

Music: The Three Suns :: Danny’s Inferno

2 Replies to “The Fuss About Gmail”

  1. actually, what i find to be the worst thing about the freemail services is not that they scan for viruses, but that they rewrite all URLs encoded in email you read through them so that your clicks are tracked. try it – send yourself (at a hotmail etc address) a email that references http://www.birdhouse.org – when you read it you’ll be clicking on cgi.hotmail.com/blah blah or similar, not http://www.birdhouse.org

  2. It’s true – very few of them don’t do this. It never bothered me until it created a nasty development problem for me. I had sent an announcement to students with login info for our intranet, including the intranet’s URL. The way hotmail treated the URLs caused my cookies to fail (because cookies can’t be read across domains). Eventually found a fix, but it was frustrating.

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