What on earth is everyone freaking out about? The
LA Times recently wrote an
article (registration required) that quoted a host of privacy
advocates who are frankly making ridiculous claims. Here is a direct
"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," said Jordana Beebe, the
communications director for the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a consumer
group in San Diego.
I don�t know Jordana Bebe. She may the smartest human
being on the planet, but this statement makes no sense to me. What is
wrong with having a computer scan my e-mail to target advertising
effectively? I am pretty fed up with ads that are untargeted. I am married
and don�t need to see ads about meeting others from Lava Life. I don�t
need a new Motorola phone and I am not going to use that free lobster
dinner coupon from Red Lobster (perhaps you can strike that last one. I am
a big fan of lobster and Atkins menu options are pretty limited.) These
are all ads I see right now when I log into my Hotmail account. I wouldn�t
mind more targeted ads� In fact, I would prefer it!
Google�s new Gmail service is a great win for users
and the privacy advocates are going ballistic. They are mostly nuts.
Here�s why. We allow search engines to monitor our surfing habits,
displaying ads on our search terms and even on the pages we view. We
already allow companies like Google to store our personal information such
as name, address and credit card number using the
AutoFill feature on the
Google Toolbar. The
Yahoo Toolbar allows you to store your
favorite Web sites. What is scary about Yahoo is that they can easily
piece together your whole life. They have access to the stocks you track
and the ones you own. They also store your e-mail. They can see which
radio stations you listen to, when you are looking for a car and when you
are looking for a new job and the type of job that interests you. It gets
worse. Using their
People Search function, they can generate your social circle if
desired. Is that not bad enough for you? They are aware of any time you
travel to a new destination using their
mapping service. Still not concerned? They have access to many of your
most crucial files through their
briefcase feature; they can see what companies you contact through
Yellow Pages feature. They can inspect what you buy via their shopping
service. They are aware of when you are
house shopping as well as your interests via
Yahoo Groups. They can see if you are researching illnesses that you
or someone you know has. They can see when you are lonely and looking for
a soul mate via their
Personals portal. They may even have access to your sexual
orientation, intimate preferences and fantasies via this last feature!
Dear privacy advocates,
You are all nuts!
You are telling me that Yahoo and similarly MSN and
AOL are wonderful and Google is doing something bad? Why? Because they
will scan your e-mails electronically and (hopefully) target ads more
Some privacy advocates point out correctly that
Google has not ruled out linking e-mail and search together and
subsequently allowing Google to build a personal profile about you.
Certainly the linking of disparate services is an issue whenever a company
has strength in multiple areas of Web services, but isn't Google a much
smaller privacy threat than all of its competitors? I think so.
Either way, you don�t ever have to give Google your
personal information if you don�t want to. If they force you to enter a
mailing address or your real name just use a fake one. There, was that so
I tell you, Google is doing a great job with this
service for this reason alone: you will be able to send 10
megabyte attachments and store a gigabyte of information. This means many
of you will no longer have to rely on FTP to send large files. This alone
makes this service very valuable to me and I want to thank Google for a
job well done.
For more information on Google, please see my
previous article, titled
Google�s Fatal Flaw?
Please talk back to
me in our forums
Rich Tehrani is TMC's president. He welcomes your comments.
Participate in our
reprints of this article by calling (800) 290-5460 or buy them directly
online at www.reprintbuyer.com.