Friday, April 15, 2005

Gmail's Disadvantage?

Alright, I found this, "GMail is too creepy" site from somewhere, and i quote the most interesting part of it here:

GMail Is Nearly Immortal..

Google offers 1 gig of storage, which is many times the storage offered by Yahoo or Hotmail, or other Internet service providers that we know about. The powerful searching encourages account holders to never delete anything. It takes three clicks to put a message into the trash, and more effort to delete this message. It's much easier to "archive" the message, or just leave it in the inbox and let the powerful searching keep track of it. Google admits that even deleted messages will remain on their system, and may also be accessible internally at Google, for an indefinite period of time.

Google has been spinning their original position in press interviews, and with an informal page described as "a few words about privacy and Gmail." When we see fresh material from Google, we check the modification date at the bottom of the terms-of-use page and privacy page for Gmail. If these dates are still April 6 and April 8, we know that nothing has changed. Google can modify these pages too, any way they want and whenever they want, unilaterally. But at least these two pages carry slightly more legal weight than other pages, because Google should attempt to notify users of significant changes in these formal policies.

Google's relationships with government officials in all of the dozens of countries where they operate are a mystery, because Google never makes any statements about this. But here's a clue: Google uses the term "governmental request" three times on their terms-of-use page and once on their privacy page. Google's language means that all Gmail account holders have consented to allow Google to show any and all email in their Gmail accounts to any official from any government whatsoever, even when the request is informal or extralegal, at Google's sole discretion.

Google's policies do not apply

Google has not even formally stated in their privacy policy that they will not keep a list of keywords scanned from incoming email, and associate these with the incoming email address in their database. They've said that their advertisers won't get personally identifiable information from email, but that doesn't mean that Google won't keep this information for possible future use. Google has never been known to delete any of the data they've collected, since day one. For example, their cookie with the unique ID in it, which expires in 2038, has been tracking all of the search terms you've ever used while searching their main index.

A massive potential for abuse

If Google builds a database of keywords associated with email addresses, the potential for abuse is staggering. Google could grow a database that spits out the email addresses of those who used those keywords. How about words such as "box cutters" in the same email as "airline schedules"? Can you think of anyone who might be interested in obtaining a list of email addresses for that particular combination? Or how about "mp3" with "download"? Since the RIAA has sent subpoenas to Internet service providers and universities in an effort to identify copyright abusers, why should we expect Gmail to be off-limits?

*So shall we burn it.. ?

For more information, please visit Gmail is too crepy official website.

I found another interesting website regarding Gmail privary and related issue at EPIC which provides more issue concerning our's privacy(as GMail's users):

Non-Subscribers Do Not Consent to "Content Extraction."

Subscribers consent to "content extraction" and analysis of their e-mail ("We serve highly relevant ads and other information as part of the service using our unique content-targeting technology," according to the privacy policy). But non-subscribers who are e-mailing a Gmail user have not consented, and indeed may not even be aware that their communications are being analyzed or that a profile may being compiled on him or her. (See 2.3 "Will Google Build Profiles of Subscribers and/or Non-subscribers?")

Unlimited Data Retention.

While the prospect of never having to delete or file an e-mail is an attractive feature for space-hungry users, the implications of indefinite storage of e-mail communications presents several serious implications. Although Google has is held in high esteem by the public as a good corporate citizen, past performance is no guarantee of future behavior -- especially following Google's IPO when the company will have a legal duty to maximize shareholder wealth. Although Google currently says that they will not record the "concepts" extracted from scanned e-mails, they could decide to do so in the future and thereby create detailed profiles of users. Building such profiles on years of past communication in addition to current communications is made easier if users never delete e-mails. Additionally, communications stored for more than 180 days are exposed to lower protections from law enforcement access; with Gmail, many such e-mails could be made easily available to police.

Profiling Across Google Product Line.

Google uses cookies to track users (and preserve preference across sessions) on the Google search engine. Gmail also uses cookies. Google's personal information-rich social networking service, Orkut, does as well. Although Google said that it does not cross-reference the cookies, nothing is stopping them from doing so at any time ("It might be really useful for us to know that information. I'd hate to rule anything like that out," said Google co-founder Larry Page). Google retains a powerful ability to create incredibly detailed profiles on users, whether or not they do so today: e-mail addresses and "concept" information about a persons's friends, family and co-workers; the daily search terms typed into Google; and myriad personal information provided to Orkut. The Gmail privacy policy explicitly allows such uses: "Google may share cookie information among its other services for the purpose of providing you a better experience." (See also 2.3 "Will Google Build Profiles of Subscribers and/or Non-subscribers?") Additionally, Google has extremely long cookie expiration dates that preserve the cookie until the year 2038 (see 1.5 What other things has Google been doing that might affect my privacy?)

Bad Legal Precedent.

In the United States, violations of privacy with respect to the Fourth Amendment are based partly on whether the person had a legitimate expectation of privacy. If a major online e-mail provider such as Google is allowed to monitor private communications -- even in an automated way -- the expectations of e-mail privacy may be eroded. That is, courts may consider the service as evidence of a lack of a reasonable expectation in e-mail. Businesses and government organizations may thus find it easier to legally monitor e-mail communications. These effects are long-term and will undoubtedly outlive Google.

Insufficient Privacy Policy.

Google can transfer all of the information, including any profiles created, if and when it is merged or sold ("We reserve the right to transfer your personal information in the event of a transfer of ownership of Google, such as acquisition by or merger with another company".) Also, Google can make unilateral changes to the policy and unless it deems them "significant," it may not even notify users ("If we make any significant changes to this policy, we will notify you by posting a notice of such changes on the Gmail login page.") Finally, as outlined above, the policy regarding retention is very broad: "...residual copies of e-mail may remain on our systems for some time, even after you have deleted messages from your mailbox or after the termination of your account." (These and the rest of the references to the privacy policy are based on the 6/28/2004 version.)

Google changed the Google privacy policy on 6/28/2004 in order to comply with the California Online Privacy Protection Act. (Google should provide a "redline" version that shows the differences between the two policies, as it has done with the Gmail Program Policies.) The most significant change in the privacy policy is that Google more explicitly reserves its legal right to track users across Google products ("If you have an account, we may share the information submitted under your account among all of our services in order to provide you with a seamless experience and to improve the quality of our service") much like a similar provision in the Gmail Privacy Policy (see 2.3 "Will Google Build Profiles of Subscribers and/or Non-subscribers?"). Google claims that they do not currently track users or create profiles, nor does it intend to do so in the future. But if that is so, why does it need to explicitly reserve the right to do so?

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