martedì 20 agosto 2013

Se ne parla all'estero: Google mail

Google: Forget Privacy When Using Gmail
August 20, 2013
Shockingly, Google argues that users of its free email service Gmail can't legitimately expect privacy. Even more worrying is the fact that this also applies to anyone who emails someone else who uses Gmail, even if the sender doesn't. This basically means Google believes it is okay to read and analyze the content of your private emails (sent or received by a Gmail user) so it can better target you with advertising.

At least this is what Google is putting forward in a brief that was filed in a federal court as part of a lawsuit against Google. Google is accused of breaking federal and state laws by scanning the emails of Gmail users and in their defence has put forward this statement (which was recently exposed by Consumer Watchdog):
Just as a sender of a letter to a business colleague cannot be surprised that the recipient's assistant opens the letter, people who use web-based email today cannot be surprised if their communications are processed by the recipient's ECS provider in the course of delivery. Indeed, 'a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.' Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735, 743-44 (1979)."
Wow, I have to say I find this a little scary and can see so many major issues with this type of arrogant approach to privacy. Just imagine a scenario like this:
Someone secretly arranges a surprise weekend in New York for their partner – all done at a computer away from home. The flight confirmation email is then sent to that person's Gmail account, which is scanned and analyzed by Google. This person also has a home computer, which is shared with the partner, and Google searches on this computer (by that person or the partner) are now targeted with ads for New York hotels, Broadway theatre tickets etc. Wouldn't that give the surprise away?
Even worse, imagine a similar scenario with someone who is planning to propose and has just ordered an engagement ring. Or someone who has found out they are pregnant, etc. These scenarios are completely made up but when Google says "a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties" then it makes me think twice now about using their services.
We all know that the email service Google provides is free and that they have to make money somehow. The problem I have is that I don't think the 400+ million users of the Gmail service have happily signed up for the fact that Google can read and analyse their emails and exploit that information in whatever way they want. The issue is that we don't really read the privacy policies in detail (even though we should) before signing up for free services. Maybe it's just me but I feel it is a step too far to argue users have no right to privacy if they hand information to a third party. What do you think?
Bernard Marr is a best-selling business author and enterprise performance expert. Make sure you click 'Follow' if you would like to hear more from Bernard Marr in the future and feel free to also connect via TwitterFacebook and The Advanced Performance Institute

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