Google's Gmail: spook heaven?

Tuesday, 15 June 2004, 2:39 PM EST

Google's plans to run targeted advertising with the mail that you see through its new Gmail service represents a potential break for government agencies that want to use autobots to monitor the contents of electronic communications travelling across networks. Even though the configuration of the Gmail service minimises the intrusion into privacy, it represents a disturbing conceptual paradigm - the idea that computer analysis of communications is not a search. This is a dangerous legal precedent which both law enforcement and intelligence agencies will undoubtedly seize upon and extend, to the detriment of our privacy.

The Gmail advertising concept is simple. When you log into the Gmail to retrieve and view your email, the service automatically scans the contents of the email and displays a relevant ad on the screen for you to see. Although it has been said that neither Google nor the advertiser "knows" the text or essence of the email message, this is not strictly true: if you click on the link to the ad, it can be reasonably inferred that the text of the email in some way related to the advertiser's service.

By Mark Rasch at The Register.

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