Google's Eyes in Your Inbox
Friday, April 2, 2004; 9:53 AM
Chris Hoofnagle of the Electronic Privacy Information Center offered up one of the best sound bites to the Los Angeles Times on why consumers should be wary: "He likened the Gmail ads to a computerized voice interrupting a phone conversation about a vacation with a pitch for a travel agency." The L.A. Times went on to offer its own example of intrusive ad-delivery, saying "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." Jordana Beebe, the communications director for San Diego-based Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, told the paper: "The privacy implications of going through and perusing a customer's e-mail to display targeted advertising could be the Achilles' heel for Google's services."
The Los Angeles Times: Google's E-mail Strategy Criticized (Registration required)
London's The Guardian explained more about how the service would work: "Google said Gmail users would be able to search emails by sender, topic or other keywords and organise them according to conversational threads. Google claimed it would have better anti-spam filters than its rivals, a key selling point for all providers. But there will be a drawback. Google hopes to make money from the service by programming its servers to pick up key words in emails and deliver related advertising in the messages. An email about a concert might include a link from a ticketing agency, for instance."
The Guardian: Google Sends Message To Its Rivals -- Gmail
Yinka Adegoke, deputy editor of New Media Age, told the London Telegraph that "[t]here are privacy concerns around contextual advertising. Not everyone is going to be happy with the idea that if they send emails about football, they will then have football-related ads stuck in their emails and that a computer somewhere is recording that information."
The Telegraph: Google Launches Advanced E-mail In War On Rivals
In Google We Trust
Google stressed that ads would only show up on incoming e-mail, according to Wired. "Wayne Rosing, Google's vice president of engineering, said the system would not read and insert ads into correspondence that the Gmail user sent out. 'That would be editorializing your outgoing e-mail,' he said."
Wired: Free E-mail With A Steep Price