EFF raises Gmail privacy concerns

— 5:11 AM on April 5, 2004

TR reader Jim Vanson sent in a story on Google's "Gmail" email service that highlights some interesting privacy implications for targeted advertising. Gmail serves targeted ads based on the contents of user emails, which requires the service to "read" a user's email. Gmail's privacy policy maintains that emails will be read by computers rather than humans, but privacy advocates still have concerns:

Kevin Bankston, an attorney working as a fellow at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a consumer group, worried that the information kept by Google for advertising purposes could wind up in a gray legal area not protected by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

"It's a back door to seeing the content of your e-mail, without seeing your e-mail," he said. "They completely avoid this in their privacy policy."

Gmail is still in a limited beta, so it's hard to say whether privacy concerns will dampen enthusiasm for the service. However, a gigabyte of free webmail storage will be tough to resist for Hotmail users stuck with only 2MB of storage.
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