Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Privacy

Privacy Complaint Against Google's GMail Service 447

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the that-didn't-take-long dept.
CRCates writes "Privacy groups in the UK have filed a complaint against Google over its new Gmail service. Privacy groups said they were concerned about Google's ability to link a user's personal details, supplied in the Gmail registration process, to Web-surfing behaviour through the use of a single cookie for its search and mail services. "
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Privacy Complaint Against Google's GMail Service

Comments Filter:
  • by Pingular (670773) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:37AM (#8779553)
    It hasn't even been launched yet, it's in beta. I'd imagine the people in this beta have signed some kind of agreement where they say they cannot do anything if they are adversly affected by Gmail, so what's the problem? Of course it's a different matter when it's launched to the public.
    • by darien (180561) <darien AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:38AM (#8779567)
      Presumably this group wants Google to get it right before it's released to the public! Which seems fair enough to me. Isn't that what being in beta is for?
    • [quoteblock]It hasn't even been launched yet, it's in beta. I'd imagine the people in this beta have signed some kind of agreement where they say they cannot do anything if they are adversly affected by Gmail, so what's the problem? Of course it's a different matter when it's launched to the public.[/quoteblock]

      Or more like they signed an agreement that made sure they agreed to complete and total lack of anonymity and privacy.
    • by orthogonal (588627) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:54AM (#8779743) Journal
      I'd imagine the people in this beta have signed some kind of agreement where they say they cannot do anything if they are adversly affected by Gmail, so what's the problem?

      The problem is those pesky "inalienable" (or "unalienable" as one source writes it) rights: inalienable simply means that something can't be given away or sold -- alienated -- even if you want to give it away or sell it.

      Just as you can't, regardless of contract, sell yourself into slavery in most countries, Google's GMail quite possibly violates European law (but not U.S. law, which protects privacy very little if at all).

      So a contract is no defense, as contracts for illegal activities are unenforceable.
  • Erase the cookie (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:37AM (#8779554)
    Erase the cookie. Don't use the service. How do you know Yahoo! doesn't read all it's mail?

    Welcome to paranoia.
    • Not that simple (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GreenCrackBaby (203293) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:46AM (#8779659) Homepage
      The article is very clear: privacy groups aren't just arguing that Google is violating privacy, they are arguing that Google is violating the law (by violating privacy).

      It seems that European privacy law is much more strict than US law, and by retaining a subscriber's email even after they have deleted it or cancelled their account Google is breaking those laws.

      Huge difference.
      • by jaaron (551839) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:53AM (#8779740) Homepage
        It seems that European privacy law is much more strict than US law, and by retaining a subscriber's email even after they have deleted it or cancelled their account Google is breaking those laws.

        Cool. Looks like the rest of us won't have to compete with all the Europeans for cool gmail addresses. :)

        Another option is that gmail just won't be available in Europe.
      • It would be interesting to see if they are simply the first people to admit this.

        Do you think AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo! mail and every other ISP in the world dig through their backups when you quit and make sure they delete all copies of your mail? I'd be very, very, very surprised if they do.
    • by sgtron (35704) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:47AM (#8779669)
      Hotmail, Yahoo, GMX.. they all *read* your email.. let me explain. All these services have "anti-spam" measures in place. They scan all your email for certain terms that would identify it as spam. Now, what is Google doing differently? They also scan your email, not only for spam words, but for ad keywords. I don't see the big problem here honestly. If you don't want your email scanned for spam terms or ad words, just use a real isp and run your own anti-spam software.
    • I know (Score:2, Interesting)

      by nickol (208154)
      Every day I'm sending them about 30 emails
      in spam report. The same spam keeps coming
      again and again.


      Well, even if they wanted... They'd have to
      hire at least the whole population of China.
      Or invent a REAL artificial intelligence, which
      itself has more value than all our Yahoo mails.

    • Hosted at Yahoo? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cgenman (325138)
      Does anybody else find it creepy that this article is posted at Yahoo?

      I don't want to jump on the SlashThink wagon, but does anyone storing e-mails on a free remote server have an expectation of privacy about automated searches and indexing? After all, your e-mail has to be read by machine at some point or another, or it isn't an e-mail. And is should be backed up. The only thing I can see about this is Google stuck their foot firmly in their mouth about basically accepted industry practices.
    • by Sethb (9355) <bokelman@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @11:10AM (#8779927) Homepage
      It gets even dumber. People have privacy concerns about Google scanning the e-mail to deliver the AdSense ads, and now this, but they're sending their e-mail around the internet, through god knows what relays, in plain text? Uh, here's an idea, if you're worried about privacy in regards to your e-mail, wrap it in GPG/PGP and be done with it. You don't send important correspondence on a postcard, do you?
    • Re:Erase the cookie (Score:4, Interesting)

      by 0x0d0a (568518) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @11:17AM (#8780005) Journal
      Erase the cookie.

      Doesn't do anything if I voluntarily sign into an account.

      Heck, if Slashdot partnered with DoubleClick (and I didn't block ads), it'd be pretty easy to track whatever I do on the Web as well.

      Don't use the service.

      Doesn't mean it's not a legitimate complaint, though, about the service.

      How do you know Yahoo! doesn't read all it's mail?

      We don't, though it seems like the whole Yahoo Mail thing is at least as intrusive as Google -- and Yahoo tries to handle all manner of services as well.

      I use Google on a "session cookies only" basis, and block ads, which makes it at least somewhat difficult to tie different online personas together.

      I do have one (IMHO) legitimate privacy grievance with Google's operation. Google does not let you save preference options in the content of an URL -- language, results size, image content filtering, etc. It is technically possible (and really, pretty easy) to do so, but they prefer to force me to retain a permanent cookie on my system if I wish to use these features (or set the content each time I visit their site). There's a constant nag to give the degree of privacy that I *do* have, which I'm less than thrilled about. I consider search engine cookies pretty much unacceptable based on the sheer amount of data they hand out. You don't have to be searching for how to defraud your employer or for child porn to be uncomfortable with someone having a complete record of everything you're looking for. I view search engines as a tremendous data leak out of companies. Do you Google for things that you're doing research on, or companies that you might be doing business in, or areas/markets that you might be entering? That's sensitive data. What about having a "terrorist keyword red flag list"? Search engines would be an incredibly rich resource for fishing expeditions to find suspicious folks, simply because of the sheer amount of data involved. You think you ever mind wind up in politics? Do you want your opponent to ever be able to dig up the fact that you searched for images of a gay porn actor fifteen years ago? There's an awful lot of very nasty things that can be done with search engine data. Google, on the whole, might be currently playing nice, but that's no guarantee that they will do so in the future, post-IPO, when shareholders are demanding more profits and a partnership with DoubleClick could net Google a loooot of money...
  • Tit for Tat (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Fortress (763470)
    Seems to me that if they give you a free gig of space, some targeted ads aren't too much to pay. Why not use some other mail and store it on your PC if you feel this is too invasive?
    • Re:Tit for Tat (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sphealey (2855)

      Seems to me that if they give you a free gig of space, some targeted ads aren't too much to pay.

      That's the current line of thought, particularly on the libertarian side of the Internet.

      I will note, however, that at least in the United States we went ahead and outlawed indentured servitude, even though (a) it was usually entered into voluntarily (b) it often had a net benefit to the indentured party. Still, we felt that the moral and social cost of the "servitude" part was too high to allow individuals t

      • I will note, however, that at least in the United States we went ahead and outlawed indentured servitude

        You just won silliest analogy on Slashdot for the day.

        A coupon for a free "dinner for one" at the Country Kitchen Buffet is headed you way, and will arrive in a year or two.

    • Re:Tit for Tat (Score:4, Insightful)

      by orthogonal (588627) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @11:09AM (#8779917) Journal
      Seems to me that if they give you a free gig of space, some targeted ads aren't too much to pay.

      "Seems to me, Mr. Jefferson, if England gives you the security of their navy, a little taxation without representation isn't too much to pay."

      "Seems to me, Mr, Franklin, if we can give up a little liberty for security, that isn't too much to pay."

      "Seems to me, Mr. Churchill, giving up 'a distant country of which we know nothing' in order to get 'peace in our time' isn't too much to pay"

      Do you write no email that is personal enough that you'd object to Google looking through it in order to serve up ads?

      If you're willing to give up your privacy for mere convenience, what else are you prepared to give up?

      How much for your right to vote? A gigabyte of space? Two?

      How much for that freedom of speech -- I mean, when did you last need that? And freedom of assembly, will you throw that in too, for say, three gigabytes?

      You're not hiding anything in your email, so you're probably not hilding anything your house either -- let's install some free anti-crime cameras in your bedroom -- for your protection of course.

      Did I miss the memo telling me that Americans had become so lazy we can't even get up off the couch to protect our privacy anymore?

      Alles in Ordnung, Herr Reichsminister!
      • Re:Tit for Tat (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Fortress (763470)
        Wow, I think you're getting fired up on a non-issue here. Your rights aren't being violated, if you feel that Googol's scanning your mail for ads is invasive, then don't sign up. The analogies youhave madew are all coercive, whereas Gmail is voluntary.

        I can CHOOSE to give up my right to privacy in this matter to a company I trust without giving up my Right to Privacy in general, let alone my free speech, voting and assembly.

        You seem to be strong on rights. What about Googol's right to offer a service for
      • Re:Tit for Tat (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Theaetetus (590071)
        Do you write no email that is personal enough that you'd object to Google looking through it in order to serve up ads?

        Do you Yahoo? Do you notice their auto-quoting feature that adds the > brackets in different colors? Do you write no email that is personal enough that you'd object to Yahoo looking through it in order to serve up that feature?

        The point, and the answer, is the same. There is no person reading your email at the company, merely an automated script, and it's looking for keywords. Addition

      • Re:Tit for Tat (Score:3, Insightful)

        But nobody's giving up privacy -- we're talking about a company that publicly states that it does what every mail server has to do as a matter of course.

        Yes, they parse your email. That's part of SMTP (HELO, mcfly). They store it; that's part of webmail. They go through it; that's part of syntax highlighting. They index it; that's part of search capability. They may not wipe it out when you delete it; that's part of the cost of a distributed system.

        Google isn't the only one that does ANY of this; all of t
  • by JosKarith (757063) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:38AM (#8779561)
    This would be the cookie that doesn't expire till 2038 yes?
  • by PetoskeyGuy (648788) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:39AM (#8779575)
    After all not even a company like google could keep track of that much information. :P
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "These providers can't just do as they please and hide behind a contract," Privacy International's Davies said.

    YES they can! it's called an eula...
  • Er... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Inuchance (559556) <inu AT inuchance DOT net> on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:39AM (#8779578) Journal
    If you don't want them to have your personal info, then don't provide it! GMail is a service, not a requirement.
    • Re:Er... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DroopyStonx (683090)
      Hahaha, it's funny how you people say, "It's a service, not a requirement," but when invasion of privacy actually happens to you it's suddenly not okay.

      Example: Tivo. Tivo isn't required, but people got all up in arms because they captured info about what people watched (which is kind of a bullshit thing to do). They aren't exactly identifying YOU, just your data, so it's not REALLY an issue. Either way, it's still not cool to know that something you bought that is yours is sending data about the shit yo
    • Re:Er... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by caitsith01 (606117)
      This is similar in a sense to the 'if you've got nothing to hide, you shouldn't mind having a video camera in your house/giving a DNA sample/signing this confession/having Palladium in your computer/letting the government see what you're watching on DivX' type reasoning, and with all due respect it is bunk.

      The point is not that something bad is definitely going to happen as a result of Google's policy. The point is that this moves the _presumption_ from automatic assumption of privacy to an automatic assum
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @11:02AM (#8779839)
      OK fine. So you don't have a GMail account, but what if you send mail to one?

      Your boss: "I'm on the road - send me your status report IMMEDIATELY to yourboss@gmail.com"

      Recruiter: "I have a job for you - send me your resume at somerecruiter@gmail.com..."
      • "OK fine. So you don't have a GMail account, but what if you send mail to one?"

        Additionally, it won't actually be that easy to tell if you are sending to a gmail.com domain. For example I own my own domain and simply redirect email to my ISP email account rather than pay for email hosting. So if you send email to any of my email addresses (something @ mydomain.com) you have no idea where it is actually going. Not currently to any webmail service, but in the future, who knows?
    • Re:Er... (Score:3, Insightful)

      So it is okay to provide a service which breaks the law, because poeple aren't being forced to use it?

      Is it the okay to encourage to steal, kill and rape, because they don't need to do it, it is just a suggestion? As far as I know this is also illegal in most countries.
  • So? (Score:5, Informative)

    by System.out.println() (755533) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:39AM (#8779579) Journal
    You want a gig of email but with privacy? Go sign up at Spymac [spymac.com]. It's also free, and it's already here - and not in beta. And they don't read your email.
    • Re:So? (Score:3, Funny)

      by fetus (322414)
      "And they don't read your email."

      spy mac?
      • Re:So? (Score:3, Informative)

        The name is much older than the email service - it used to be just forums, probably for rumor reporting and discussion back in the day.

        Now it functions very well as a replacement to .Mac - free, even. 100MB webspace FREE, a gig of email FREE, iCal hosting, 250MB for pictures - yes - FREE. I'm amazed they turn a profit at all. (They have paid web hosting as well, something like $17/month for a couple domains and 1GB webspace... still a pretty good deal.)
  • also in the BBC (Score:5, Informative)

    by tuxette (731067) * <tuxette@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:39AM (#8779580) Homepage Journal
    BBC Article [bbc.co.uk]
  • by LinuxOnHal (315199) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:40AM (#8779583) Homepage
    If someone has a problem with the way the advertising is done, then they shouldn't use it. It is not like Google is hiding all of this information from their users.

    All of this complaining and bickering for a service that is not yet released...
    • Deal (Score:3, Interesting)

      by caitsith01 (606117)
      Ok, that's fine. But when I decide the deal is off, I want a guarantee that you will personally go through every marketing database on earth and delete my details, so I am totally free and clear.

      No? Well maybe we could just REGULATE IT NOW BEFORE IT'S A FUCKING PROBLEM THEN.

      Sorry, but I am sick to death of this 'well then don't use it then' argument. 'Complaining' has another name, and it's 'telling a company what the consumer wants.' In this case the geek user market wants better privacy, so why do you i
      • Re:Deal (Score:5, Interesting)

        by JordanH (75307) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @11:57AM (#8780462) Homepage Journal
        • But when I decide the deal is off...

        Why do you get to decide unilaterally when the deal is off?

        • 'Complaining' has another name, and it's 'telling a company what the consumer wants.' In this case the geek user market wants better privacy, so why do you insist on defending Google?

        "Defending Google" here is defending the right to enter into agreements. You, apparently, want to be protected from your decisions by being able to change the terms of service if you don't like them at a later date and you want the force of law, through regulation, to enforce your preference.

        You don't need regulation, you need to be responsible for your decisions.

        Your concerns might be valid, I don't know. But, and I know you are sick to death of this, if you feel this way, "DON'T USE IT THEN". That would be a way of 'telling a company what the consumer wants'. But, you don't really want to tell a company what the consumer wants, you want to force the company to provide a service that you want.

    • by InodoroPereyra (514794) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @12:03PM (#8780527)
      If someone has a problem with the way the advertising is done, then they shouldn't use it. It is not like Google is hiding all of this information from their users. I strongly disagree:
      • If Google terms of service violate European law, it is appropriate for Europe based people to complain.
      • Google listens. If they are taking a wrong turn, it is wise to let them know.
      • So, if a company offers to do something illegal to its customers, do you think the company is untouchable, because you are not forced to be its customer ? This is just nonsense.
      • Yes, they are honest, and you can probably trust their current management. But what will happen to your personal data in future under new management ?
      It's funny. Your same argument has been used to death by microsofties before: what's wrong with microsoft ? Nobody forces to use their products. Yeah ...
  • by minus9 (106327) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:41AM (#8779606) Homepage

    I wish to complain about the post I am going to make half an hour from now. It is inflammatory and totally uncalled for.

  • Gmail - Opt-In (Score:5, Informative)

    by Silwenae (514138) * on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:42AM (#8779608) Homepage
    I can understand the concerns Europeans may have, but then again, this is an opt-in procedure.

    If you don't want to use Gmail, you have other options through your ISP, other free services, etc.

    It just seems to me this is an extension of social networking, but from a business perspective. - target based advertising based on what you surf for based on your cookie.

    It seems similar in a way to what Gnome's Nat Friedman wants to do with Dashboard. Based on your email & IM, having the desktop provide you with links to what you're talking about.

    To me, the pro's at this point from what we know may outweight the cons - yes they'll target me with ad's based on my surfing behavior, but the ability to index and search my email rather than using "To" "From" and "Subject" headers is definitely a step forward in email management.
  • What's to complain about? They're up front about it when you sign up for the service, if you don't like, don't use.

    But either way, quit yer bitchin'!
  • by jamonterrell (517500) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:43AM (#8779618)
    Since by the same measure, Microsoft can track a user by the personal information given through the passport/hotmail registration procedure through every website you visit using THEIR browser, every program you run on THEIR operating system, every document you read/write with THEIR office application.
    Innocent until proven guilty. When they start using this for an invasion of privacy, then you can complain, at this point they haven't even offered the service, how can you complain that they've invaded your privacy.

    Besides, if you don't like it, don't create an account and go back to wearing your tinfoil hat. They aren't using strongarm tactics to force you to use their product.

    Jamon.
  • by Talez (468021) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:43AM (#8779621)
    If you don't the terms and conditions go with another mail provider.

    But I suppose when Google is the only mail provider providing a gig of space, it's no wonder why privacy advocates are jumping up and down.

    You can't have your cake and eat it too. Google is a private company. They own the servers and the bandwidth. These privacy advocates can go jump as far as I'm concerned.
  • by Chris_Jefferson (581445) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:43AM (#8779625) Homepage
    I'm still not entirely sure what everyone's complaint is here. You don't have to join Gmail to use google. They openly admit that they may combine data (unlike everyone else who do combine data but refuse to tell anyone about it)

    If you don't want google using your data, don't give it to them. Personally, I'm happy for google to have all my data if it will improve my browsing and emailing experience, and that is my personal choice to make.

    What people should be complaining about is insurance and credit card companies which buy incomplete and incorrect sets of data and judge your credit rating based on it (it's happened to me). Now thats dodgy.
  • Microsoft Exchange? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Wingchild (212447) <brian@wingchild.net> on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:43AM (#8779627) Homepage
    "Residual copies of email may remain on our systems, even after you have deleted them from your mailbox or after the termination of your account," Google's Gmail says in its privacy and terms of use sections.

    snip

    "If a person deletes an email, he should be confident that email is actually deleted," said Maurice Westerling, co-founder of Bits of Freedom, another privacy interest group, based in the Netherlands.

    MS Exchange has settings for the email retention period. If you delete something from your mailbox in Outlook, then empty your Trash folder, it's effectively gone from your view and you've no way to retrieve it. It is however stored in Exchange for as long as the administrators wish to hang onto it (and that "deleted" email is, indeed, backed up and restorable).

    If you shift-delete an object out of your Inbox, using that wonderful permanent-kill technique that the tech-savvy thinks protects and anonymizes their email... it's stored for the email retention period listed by the sysadmins, is backed up, and is restorable. It looks very dead to /you/, but not to /us/.

    (fyi, the only real way around this is to edit your Outlook client so that you can get the Recover Deleted Items option on every object in your inbox [as opposed to just the Recycle Bin], then habitually view -- and purge -- that information on a schedule that is more frequent than the one used for our backups. That'd work.)

    Anyway, the shorter point is, this kind of thing happens. The reason is happens is liability. If a criminal organization is using Google's GMail system for planning a robbery, or if a terrorist group decides they want to attack rail systems in Europe and wants to do so by using random public terminals to sign into email accounts that someone else hosts, it's a problem. If law enforcement comes looking and Google has to say "Oh, sorry - we respect privacy so much that we absolutely and permanently delete all traces of all email the second you touch the delete object!", it will not be a pleasant thing. The investigators will not be happy.

    Alternate question; do you really think that your email is permanently gone from Yahoo! and Hotmail?

    Do you really think they can't restore to an arbitrary point in time?

    Do you think they wouldn't turn that info over to law enforcement in a heartbeat if a court order came down? :)

    Are the rules /that/ different in Europe?
    • Anyway, the shorter point is, this kind of thing happens. The reason is happens is liability. If a criminal organization is using Google's GMail system for planning a robbery, or if a terrorist group decides they want to attack rail systems in Europe and wants to do so by using random public terminals to sign into email accounts that someone else hosts, it's a problem. If law enforcement comes looking and Google has to say "Oh, sorry - we respect privacy so much that we absolutely and permanently delete all
    • "Do you think they wouldn't turn that info over to law enforcement in a heartbeat if a court order came down? :)"

      Do you think it would even take a court order? Hello Patriot Act...
    • by dave420 (699308) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:56AM (#8779774)
      The real reason they're keeping the data is the way google's distributed file system works.

      It uses 64mb-chunks of disk space, and instead of erasing data from within the chunk, it just flags it as deleted, thereby not fragmenting the filesystem fantastically. That method means it's practically impossible to delete the email.

      It has to be kept on their filesystem as the inbox is searchable, and 1gb large - raid arrays just wouldn't cope with that stress (and it'd take 3 days to search your mail). The filesystem is the real genius of google - their system is made of hundreds of terabytes of storage on a distributed system. Thousands of servers running redundantly. When one dies (with that many it's a regular occurance) it gets swapped out seamlessly. The processing on the data also requires huge bandwidth throughput.

      To me, it looks like the google boys found a great use for their systems, but the very methods that make them great contradict local law in some areas they're selling in.

      Oh, and the rules are that different in europe ;)

      • That argument is bunk.

        With a system like that, you could implement a system where "deleted" chunks get purged or overwritten on some semi-regular basis.
        • The real reason they're keeping the data is the way google's distributed file system work

          That argument is bunk.

          With a system like that, you could implement a system where "deleted" chunks get purged or overwritten on some semi-regular basis.

          It is possible that the grand parent poster did not get the motivation for making the users agree to allow google to maintain the data correct. However, his assertion that backups, checkpointing, caching and distributed storage cause privacy concerns is accura

  • Read it. (Score:5, Informative)

    by mystery_bowler (472698) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:44AM (#8779632) Homepage
    Here is the privacy policy. [google.com]

    I didn't see anything in there about this particular topic, although there is a bit about the fact that they will be using cookies (natch).

    Personally, I find it hard to be too concerned about this. My web-surfing patterns are already recorded in a "soft" way via my browser history and a much "harder" way via my ISP's access logs. I can go out of my way to use proxies and make it difficult to trace, etc, but it isn't like you can't figure out what my machine is doing (unless I'm doing some fairly advanced stuff).
  • The thing is, the average user is happy to trade their privacy for a service useful to them. Here in the UK for instance, most people are happy to use supermarket loyalty cards that provdes this kind of tracking data to companies for mining and targetted advertising.

    It could be argued that this kind of data represents partial payment for the service. It's obviously very valuable as the companies are glad to offer certain cash-back offers in the form of rewards for it.

    Off the top of my head, I also can

  • Americans, wake up! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:44AM (#8779637) Homepage Journal
    This is about European Union privacy laws, which are different than those in the United States. It says so multiple times, quite clearly in the article.

  • by plumby (179557) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:44AM (#8779641)
    It seems like most of the comments so far are along the lines "it's voluntary, google should be allowed to do what they want."

    It would be interesting to see the reaction on /. if this had been a Microsoft service.
  • Did someone just graduate from assertiveness training or something? Perhaps next time you ought to actually wait until the product is released until you go throwing a shit-fit about it.
  • Call me crazy, but I don't see the point in using an email service where you CAN'T DELETE your emails. WTF?

    That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard of.
  • When I first heard about the privacy concerns involved in the Gmail project, my initial reaction was to trust Google no matter what to "Do no evil." However, perhaps we should put aside our love for the company and ask critically whether this breeches acceptable advertising practices. For me, I'm uneasy with the idea of saving "deleted" mail.
  • If the fear is of linkage between email, which gives the identity of the user, along with searching behaviour, then just use different cookies. Presumably there will be a new domain, Gmail.com, rather than the current subdomain off Google.com, which will make keeping the cookies separate trivial.

    Also, the statements that mail may not be deleted is probably just a legal disclaimer in case it's not deleted immediately. What would be the point of keeping it -- it's just a legal timebomb to keep it around. But

  • Privacy Groups (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fortress (763470) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:48AM (#8779682) Homepage
    Any one else think it's odd that a privacy group is complaing about a service that isn't available to the public yet? I'm all for privacy, but let's pick the reasonable battles. It will be repeated ad nauseum here, but you don't HAVE to sign up for Gmail.

    I would much rather that privacy groups spend their finite resources fighting the stuff we don't have the option of avoiding, Big Government and such.

    Seems like any other organization, privacy groups have to justify their existence by creating problems where none exist.
  • Knee Jerk reaction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AlecC (512609) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:48AM (#8779687)
    This seems to me to be very much a knee-jerk reaction. Provided that Google is up-fromt will all this, why shouldn't I be given the opportunity to opt-in to such a service? I entirely agree that this should not be done secretly - but Google is very upfront. Surely it is not an invasion of privacy if I explicitly accept that Google will scan my mail as part of paying for the service.

    I like Google Adwords. Given that advertising is an endemic part of life, and is not going to go away, Adwords is the way I want it. Let Google take all the advertising revenue with Adwords, and may the popup merchants go broke. If Google want to offer a paid-for non-Adwords service, I shall think about it - and probably not buy it.

    As to keeping some of your email when you delete it - I don't think this is intentional. AFAICS Google has a "weak delete" policy - they try to recover deleted space, but if they don't recover it all, too bad - disks are cheap. So there may well be old copies of your emails hanging round. What the hell - they are not indexed, so it will take a deep search to find it. Do Yahoo, Hotmail & Co guarantee a destructive overwrite when they delete your mail? I doubt it - in which case they might have an old copy lying round on their disks.

    So, privacy people, don't spoil what looks like it might (subject to confirmation, of course) be a useful, opt-in service because of arcane potential privacy problems.
    • by admbws (600017)
      On subject of deletion, I was thinking a similar thing myself.

      The term in question is,

      "Residual copies of email may remain on our systems, even after you have deleted them from your mailbox or after the termination of your account."

      On most filesystems, deleted files are not deleted completely, they remain physically on disk and, provided the now-free space has not been subsequently overwritten, could potentially be retrieved with appropriate tools. This is what Google means by "residual copies", and I wou

  • by rjstanford (69735) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:50AM (#8779706) Homepage Journal
    I mean, think about it. Let's say that you have webmail with one of the other major providers. Somebody sends you mail. You reply. They reply. Now your email has a couple of levels of ">" in it. Wouldn't it be nice if they highlighted those in different colors or something?

    Oh, wait - they already do that? (Note: at least, this was common the last time I bothered with webmail which was some time ago). Guess what - that's "reading" your mail as well. In fact, they're just changing your display - without changing the verbal contact of your message - to make it more convenient for you.

    Isn't that also a (reaching, but legitimate) description of providing targetted advertising? I mean, how many times have people here on /. said about ads that if they made sense, they wouldn't mind 'em? Guess what - that's targetting. And how they're supposed to make sense and be timely without some kind of processing is beyond me.

    As for the article's complaint, it seems to focus around the fact that when you "delete" an email, Google doesn't guarantee that it goes away immediately. Their message seems to be talking about cache updates though - if they were willing to amend it with a service guarantee that within xx hours your email would be deleted, that would probably do the trick. Of course, then people would be arguing that they needed to provide complete file-trashing (triple overwrite, etc) as well, even though your regular email client and ISPs email account probably don't do that.

    I think its just a case of being too cautious in their terms of use. In this case, being too honest where the other major providers are being "honest enough," and not worrying about caches, et cetera. Of course, they may be planning to use your old email for nefarious purposes, but somehow I doubt it. Either way, they should clarify their statement.
  • I wonder how much will be the restriction on the size of files that you can send in and out of your @gmail address.

    Sending myself 500MB of MP3 files to have on the road comes to mind.
  • by lordbios (729438) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:51AM (#8779711) Homepage
    Email in its basic form is not, nor has never been, private. There have never been any promises that email was private. I remember from the first time I used email that it was always likened to mailing stuff on a postcard, not in a sealed envelope. It's also not like Google is trying to hide the fact that they are scanning your emails. It is right out in the open in the terms of agreement. If you don't agree, don't sign up...
  • The retiree who lives across my street is able to watch me leave my house each morning. She thus can chronolog my work-habits, mood, weight, fashion-sense, etc.

    I've petitioned the town council to have her windows boarded up.

  • by HarveyBirdman (627248) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:54AM (#8779755) Journal
    Am I the only one with ZERO sympathy when users of FREE services whine?
  • April Fools (Score:3, Insightful)

    by doublesix (590400) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @10:55AM (#8779759)
    Is it just me or is this whole GMail thing an April Fools prank gone horribly wrong?
    Read the Google news release again:
    The inspiration for Gmail came from a Google user complaining about the poor quality of existing email services, recalled Larry Page, Google co-founder and president, Products. "She kvetched about spending all her time filing messages or trying to find them," Page said. "And when she's not doing that, she has to delete email like crazy to stay under the obligatory four megabyte limit. So she asked, 'Can't you people fix this?'"
    The idea that there could be a better way to handle email caught the attention of a Google engineer who thought it might be a good "20 percent time" project. (Google requires engineers to spend a day a week on projects that interest them, unrelated to their day jobs). Millions of M&Ms later, Gmail was born.

    Kinda fishy.
  • if you're so concerned about gmail, stick with M$ hatemail and the 1mb limit or whatever that piece of crap gives you.
  • by lewko (195646) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @11:05AM (#8779872) Homepage
    It's hardly a new problem on the Internet that one can't delete messages from the past [c2.com]...
  • by minus9 (106327) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @11:15AM (#8779984) Homepage

    I'm sure the first thing the hotmail staff do when they get into work on a morning is read all my mail to find out what a fascinating life I lead.

    As soon as Bill Gates and his henchmen manage to reconcile the facts that I am a 104 year old man from Zimbabwe, lots of hot teens want to meet me and I have a massive interest in cable descramblers then I am sure they have some evil plan to oppress me.

  • by cyberlotnet (182742) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @11:18AM (#8780023) Homepage Journal
    Whats the diffrence between Hotmail, Yahoo, Every other free email provider out there And Google..

    Nothing, google is just upfront and honest about whats happening to your emails.

    They have to "scan" through them to provide virus and spam protection.

    They will use there distributed approach to searching to provide fast web based email services. This means your email could be on 100's of there servers at the same time. When you hit delete it might take a while for it to be removed from all systems.

    Here a company steps forward and is 100% honest about what they are doing and we flame them.

    No wonder we have to deal with lame support and excuses from companys every day.
  • by BCW2 (168187) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @11:32AM (#8780160) Journal
    I use Netscape and Mozilla. I started each off with an empty cookie file and visited the sites I wanted to not log into later, like /. . I saved a copy of this file as cookies2. n=Now when I'm done I delete the cookie file and save cookies2 as cookies and avoid all the spyware crap everyone thinks they deserve.
    Also if you block all third party cookies, you much less crap to delete anyway.
  • by Anders Andersson (863) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @11:34AM (#8780190) Homepage

    I was intrigued by the following statement in the article:

    Government-backed privacy agencies in Sweden and Germany, however, have blocked commercial services because personal information required in order to sign up would be stored on U.S.-based computers.

    I live in Sweden. I don't know about Germany, but I have never heard of any government-backed agency in Sweden actually blocking access to foreign services for any reason, and in particular not for such a silly reason as sign-up procedures not compliant with Swedish law! If anyone can guess what the article author is referring to here, please let me know.

    I have been trying for years to have my employer (a state university) merely consider blocking certain foreign ISPs from pouring junk mail over ourselves, but every suggested policy in that direction has either been rejected with a vague reference to the law prohibiting that, or not seen any response at all. I find it hard to believe that anybody in Swedish public administration would officially approve of blocking third-party traffic, let alone actually do it.

  • Crybabies (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lo_fye (303245) <(moc.ytinukeeg) (ta) (kered)> on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @11:41AM (#8780288) Homepage Journal
    Boo hoo!
    Somebody call the whaaaaambulance!

    First: If you read the EULA before you checked the box, you'd know about how they're going to use the info. So, it's not an invasion of your privacy. You told them they could do it! You 'signed the contract'.

    Second: They're not trying to hide what they're doing AT ALL. They should be commended for that. It's stated right there on the main page.

    Third: You should know by now that privacy doesn't exist. If you need to hide something, don't hide it on a cheapass server owned by someone else. Get your own co-located box and encrypt your mofo-email! PGP, baby. Or get a Hushmail account.

    Fourth: It really is a genius revenue model. Minimally invasive. Text-ads are acceptable. Unlike Hotmail & Yahoo, Gmail won't have any annoying banner ads or pop-ups. That is awesome.
  • by feidaykin (158035) on Tuesday April 06, 2004 @12:03PM (#8780539) Journal
    I saw that headline and I thought, "OH my god I can sign up already? 1GB here I come!" and bashed gmail.com into my keyboard with great fury in an effort to get my free gigabyte, and what do I see but a FAQ that tells me they are in a closed testing phase.

    Dumb slashdot gets me all worked up over nothing. Now granted, I suppose I could do things like, read beyond the headline, but, well, it's slashdot.

    Anyway, yeah, privacy complaints, sure. For a service that nobody can use yet. You know, I'd like to register a privacy complaint for Duke Nukem Forver, there's some nasty DRM in that. And I think my sky car is bugged with a hidden camera.

    You know, I honestly don't know why I'm even typing this crap. I mean, I'm trying to be funny I guess, but ever since they took the funny karma bonus away, you know, what's the point? The Slashdot FAQ tells me that I have to be smart, not just a smart ass. Well, sorry Taco, I don't know how to do that. So I, like the smartass I am, will now click the "Submit" button, and watch my karma cook!

Parts that positively cannot be assembled in improper order will be.

Working...