Critics Release the Hounds on GMail

By Deane Barker on April 10, 2004

Consumer watchdogs tear into Google’s new e-mail service: If you don’t know why critics are having a problem with this service, see this post.

I would just say, “If you don’t like it, don’t use it,” but the system scans incoming email as well. So I have to say, “If you don’t like it, don’t use it and don’t email anyone who uses it. ”

However with email redirects, you can’t tell where email you send is going to end up, so how can you tell what email you send will be scanned by Google? Sticky questions.

“Consumers really need to look this gift horse in the mouth because it has rotten teeth and bad breath,” said Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a watchdog group.

The Gmail backlash has inspired Orwellian comparisons likening Google to Big Brother, a disturbing development for a privately held company committed to making money “without doing evil.”

Essentially GMail is a big bribe. Google is saying, “We know this system is creepy, but we give you one gigabyte of storage.” They’re counting on the fact that the downside of email scanning is offset by the generous storage limits. I guess it’s up to the consumer to decide if this is true.

Personally, I’ve never looked at email as being terrifically private anyway. Unless you encrypt your stuff, pretty much assume that anyone can read it whenever they like.



  1. all email is scanned anyway… smtp isn’t a secure transport and the cia is watching with a program they call echelon… thats big brother. it’s not like google is really keeping track… nothing is sold, no logs are kept, it’s just a little app that displays ads relevant to whats on your page, just like when you do a search on google… i was paranoid too, but if you read the EULA google will protect all your private information… much more than can be said about hotmail. oh yeah… they upped the storage limit too, it’s 2GB now

  2. i have never really understood what people have against gmail. They came up with a really original idea for storing and sorting emails… never delete, but archive. use labels instead of folders (so emails can be in multiple categories). search instead of sort.

    all the “creepiness” that people talk about isn’t that creepy… after all, spam and soliciting phone calls were around long before gmail started scanning our “private” information… what i mean is, other companies that we trust have much worse privacy policies and that is how we started getting all those annoying emails and calls to begin with.

  3. dude….. when I was living in Ann Arbor, I conducted my search for a room-mate using craigslist and a gmail account….. now, whenever I’m logged into Gmail and I go to google maps and type in “Ann Arbor”, the exact address that I was living at pops up. spooky, eh?

  4. I solved this problem for myself by setting up my own mail server. RoundCube + Semi-dedicated server = Gmail freedom. But what really bugs me is the lack of a viable alternative for the Google search engine. DuckDuckGo isn’t very attractive and does not index as many pages. is just “meh”-y, Bing is run by Microsoft (Linux user here!)… someone really should create the New Google and adhere to the founding principle of Google: Do Not Be Evil (but make it look good too!)

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