Google Owns You – Part 1 – Gmail – Are Your Emails Really YOURS?


This is the first of many reviews that spawned from this article: Google Owns You! if you haven’t a chance to read it yet, check it out before you continue. If you have read it, enjoy, and I hope to hear your comments!

Ever since Google first launched Gmail, they had been under the microscope and often criticized for “reading” peoples email. Due to the fact that the Gmail web interface displays appropriate advertisements along with each message, Gmail is considered to be “reading” your mail. So does Google actually read your mail? Of course not, that’s ridiculous. Instead, when you open a message, it is scanned for keywords and appropriate advertisements are displayed accordingly, just like Google AdSense ads.

This site is primarily about Technology, Internet, Search Engines, Photography and few other random categories so this page is way off base in terms of content (and was created for testing purposes only). What I’m trying to display here is that the Google ad engine “reads” the content of the page, whether it be a web page, or the email in your Gmail account, and it displays appropriate ads, or at least ads that are best fit upon analyzing the content of the page that is being displayed.

Could Google take advantage of the wealth of information that they store in peoples email? Of course they could, but let’s be honest here – do you really think that we have to worry about a largely traded public company worth as much as they’re worth using the data maliciously or illegally? Let’s say for instance that Google did want to abuse the power that they have, how could they do it? Here’s one example (which could probably help them take their profits from billions to trillions): With each Gmail user, Google could begin to store an associated list of keywords (keywords taken from email subject lines, and email bodies).

If they did this for every user, they would then have a HUGE database with very specific marketing information to which they could approach companies directly and:

  1. Sell an email list of users that match a certain set of keywords specified by the advertiser
  2. Sell direct adspace to advertisers, and consequently make the ads more intrusive into Gmail

Here’s another thought – Say you’re not too excited about Gmail because you think they may “read” your mail, and you just aren’t too sure about the privacy you’ll be getting. Does that exclude you from the above scenario? Not necessarily. Think about it, just because you don’t have a Gmail account it doesn’t mean that you won’t be sending email to people who do have Gmail accounts. Their is nothing stopping Google from logging common keywords for EVERY email address that sends an email to a Gmail user.

My personal take on Gmail? I think its a great product – far superior to any other web-based email client that is out there, plus with the added Google Search built in, and nearly 3GB of storage now? You can’t beat it. Am I comfortable with them reading my mail? Not really, but then again, they’re not really reading my mail.

Score

Google: 1
Skeptics: 0

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