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  1. #11
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    Over-reactions, Or: Why Gmail Isn't Evil)


    Over-reactions
    (Or: Why Gmail Isn't Evil)

    We've all heard about Google Gmail, now. We all know its advantages, the 1GB storage, the 10MB attachments, the ability to search for words in your messages. And of course, we've heard the rest; the stuff thats appearing in posts on forums the world over, the stuff that websites are springing up out of nowhere "warning" people about.

    These things include Google's controvertial content-based advertising, their archiving of messages (even after you delete them), and so on.

    This has reached the point where people are actively seeking to block incoming e-mail from Gmail accounts, refusing to send e-mail to Gmail accounts, and so on.

    The question I am asking myself is, how is Google's approach any different to anyone elses? And really – if messages are being sent across the Internet, does it matter if they came from Gmail or anywhere else... the fact that they've been sent across the Internet is enough for them to no longer be private; at all.

    Gmail store your e-mails indefinitely, until you delete them. Even then, copies may be present on backup systems. I'm sure this must be standard practice, not just with Google, and all the other webmail providers, but also with corporate e-mail systems. Surely data is backed up, on a regular basis, and kept indefinitely (or, until there is a shortage of data tapes and you have to go back and overwrite one of the oldest ones). I fail to see how using Gmail is any less private than using any other mail system, including running your own MTA.

    The fact of the matter is, the majority of e-mail messages really aren't that private anyway. Those that are still typically get sent through isnecure channels (e.g. SMTP over the Internet, with no SSL, no encryption on the e-mail message itself, etc). In an ideal world, we could secure every individual message such that only the intended recipient could read it; but that just isn't practical. Using Gmail is no less secure than using anything else. It adds convenience, it provides an enormous amount of storage, it introduces some new ideas that I personally find very useful (e.g. Labels to identify e-mails by categories, where e-mail may belong to more than one category).

    The world is quick to jump onto a bandwagon and judge Google in terms of invasion of privacy; but lets face it, the rest is no better. Just because its unlikely that your message was read in transit over the Internet, that doesn't mean its impossible. Just because ISP employees probably shouldn't read e-mail in peoples inboxes doesn't mean they never will. In short, nothing is private unless you actively make it so, through strong encryption.

    Its about time the world stopped throwing the blame at Google for all sorts of nasty things, and realised that e-mail just ain't private. That's all there is to it. If you want to discuss your medical condition in confidentiality, don't send an e-mail to your doctor about it. If you don't want to get caught plotting that terrorist act, don't bloody do it! (Or, in the context of this article, don't send e-mail about it!).

    Its really not that difficult – E-mail isn't private, so don't send private stuff by e-mail, regardless of what service you use. The way forward is not to criticise a company for their privacy policy, when the medium itself just isn't secure.

    Google have stated that e-mail will be automatically scanned for the targetted advertising. Humans will not read the e-mail on google servers. Well, hold on a minute, that sounds like an improvement in security over having an e-mail in active transit, where anyone with half the inclination can grab your message off the net and peruse it at their leisure.

    If we all started to get ridiculously paranoid about features such as those used by Google, and about the privacy of our e-mails, we'd block e-mail from *@*, and not send any e-mail ourselves for fear if it being read by someone, somewhere.

    Who knows, maybe the same aliens that are plotting to take over the world are secretly beaming up Google servers, reading e-mail messages and realising “Hey, we don't want anything to do with a planet where the majority of communication is about enlarging their genitals, cheap prescription drugs, and money”.

    There are more important problems with e-mail than the privacy issue of communicating over an insecure channel, in plain-text.

  2. #12
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    thanks for your input. you have obviously thought about this a lot.

    I don't really care much about gmail. however it has had a positive influence on my yahoo account, and for that i am thankful. i wouldn't use it for the sole reason that i am satisfied currently using yahoo. plus i don't want the hassle of having a new email address. for the handful of emails i get a day, i don't need 1GB of storage.

  3. #13
    Linux Guru sarumont's Avatar
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    When you send an email, there is ONE chance for someone to grab it off the line. Once it reaches it's destination, that's it. Your ISP typically deletes your mail off their servers when you retrieve it via POP3 or delete it on their webmail. Try to call them and say "I deleted this email...can you bring it back for me?"

    The big one: All your mail ever sent or received through a gmail account is not only stored but INDEXED. How easy does that make it for anyone with access to it (*cough cough* government *cough cough*) to find specific things in your email?
    "Time is an illusion. Lunchtime, doubly so."
    ~Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

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  5. #14
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    Not that any of us would be participating in or discussing any illegal activities... at all...

  6. #15
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    In related news, 2GB storage on @msn.com emails is now available

    www.neowin.net

  7. #16
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    HRM...
    i really wouldnt talk about provacy with gmail.
    hotmail/msn is way worse..
    their tech can go through any acct they please. (Free or paid for)
    go through all emails, read em, delete em...basicly anything they want with em,
    and they just hire any meatball off the street and give them access to this
    so im not really worried. all email provders do this, they can all read the emails
    its just others arent so open about it

  8. #17
    Linux Guru kkubasik's Avatar
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    I think that we can all conclude that this is a personal preferance. To me it seems that most people are not bothered by a specific topic that they discuss via e-mail nor the probability that someone would actualy look through it, its the IDEA the PRINCIPAL that someone could just search for my name and BLAM! googles indexed search archive just provided them with every e-mail i ever sent in less the a hundreth of a second...
    Avoid the Gates of Hell. Use Linux
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    Formerly Known as qub333

  9. #18
    Linux User Oxygen's Avatar
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    Graham - You'd better Use Linux!

    I'm registerd Linux user #397030. What about you?

  10. #19
    Linux Engineer Giro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cloud
    In related news, 2GB storage on @msn.com emails is now available

    www.neowin.net
    I beleve this is about the bug MSN had its over now and if you joined your mail box will be back to 250Mb soon

  11. #20
    Linux Guru sarumont's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Giro
    Quote Originally Posted by Cloud
    In related news, 2GB storage on @msn.com emails is now available

    www.neowin.net
    I beleve this is about the bug MSN had its over now and if you joined your mail box will be back to 250Mb soon
    They just temporarily forgot how to count.
    "Time is an illusion. Lunchtime, doubly so."
    ~Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

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