Google email (GMail) is launching and offering Internet users a new experience in web based email. However, the Google email with its AdWords/AdSense contextual ad targeting technology (based on email content) has caused quite a stir. Privacy advocates are raising red flags and contend that there’s one big flaw with Google’s free e-mail service: The company plans to read the messages.
According to a LA Times report, Google says it needs to know what’s in the e-mail that passes through its system so they can be sprinkled with advertisements that Google thinks are relevant.
Revenue from those targeted ads will pay for the Gmail service, which began a test last week, offering up to 500 times as much e-mail storage as competing Web e-mail programs from Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp.
The electronic letters will be read by computers, not by Google employees, but the specter of seeing an ad for an antacid beside a message from a friend complaining about stomach pain is enough to make some people nervous about the e-mail service.
Google, being accused of scanning the user’s messages to insert appropriate amount of advertisement into it, has brushed of the acquisition by saying that computerized scanning of e-mails is nothing new because its service performs some essential function as antivirus and anti-spam software, which has to scan e-mail text regularly. No employee of the company actually reads the e-mail while doing so
Techtree reports that Watchdog Privacy International has asked the UK Information Commissioner to carry an investigation about Gmail, the Google’s email service, which was announced on 1st April. Gmail is accused of violation of European law because it stores the messages on its system for a considerably long time after the users have deleted their message thereby intruding into their privacy.
The other associations who have raised the objections formally include the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Consumer Federation of America, the National Consumers League, and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.
Earlier, when Gmail was announced, it was regarded revolutionary in several ways. It had a huge storage capacity up to 1 gigabyte, which is far more than the storage space offered by Yahoo and Hotmail currently. Besides this it also allows individual attachments up to 10 megabytes. However the whole service is in testing phase, which is estimated to last for six months more.
However with such a controversy in the testing phase itself, it will become tough for Google to facilitate its image as a hassle-free email service provider.
As Google tunes up GMail and the AdWords email advertising, there are sure to be more concerns from privacy advocates. Will such privacy investigations cause Google to rethink the GMail offer, or its revenue building plan?
Please leave a comment below on your thoughts about GMail and online privacy: