Gmail: Gee, the penny drops…

It’s taken a while, but the penny has finally dropped ‘en mass’ regarding the intended data usage around Gmail, going from a handful of media articles highlighting privacy concerns on days 2 and 3, to at least the 255 listed on Google News  at the time of this posting..

Now, while I understand where ‘Jeff Putz’ is coming from when he says ‘so what?’, I don’t agree…

“You know, my mail server reads my clients’ e-mail all of the time for the purpose of weeding out spam. Come to think of it, so do the other free e-mail services. But now, it’s bad because the same process is being used to serve relevant ads to you. Huh. I’m not seeing the connection there to how this will contribute to the fall of Western Society.”

As much as I personally don’t mind the concept of machine-read automation for the purposes of spam filtering,  I do think the proposed privacy and terms of use for Gmail are more than a little spooky.   For me to use Gmail I’d either have to really, really trust Google…or be oblivious to its privacy policy:    How is the ‘average’ consumer going to react? – that is the $ point…And what is really creating the stir is not so much the targtting of ads through my email content, but this (from Gmail Google Privacy Policy page.):

“The contents of your Gmail account also are stored and maintained on Google servers in order to provide the service. Indeed, residual copies of email may remain on our systems, even after you have deleted them from your mailbox or after the termination of your account.”

…So according to this, *think* I can delete my data, but Gmail, explicitly intend to maintain copies *indefinitely* so they target me with ads based on my mail history…And if Google get bought, or sell on this service, then all the email you ever sent and received while using the service can be owned (at least for this purpose) by a completely different company…Lets see if this doesn’t get revised – it may well not – as (I’m only guessing), the whole Gmail biz case may well ride on this contentious point…

(I should point out – I’m not trying to Google-bash – I like and use Google)

Comments (6)

  1. Phil Scott says:

    Alex, it would be insane to think that Hotmail, Yahoo or even your local ISP doesn’t have backups of their systems (and your e-mail). Even if you delete that e-mail, it wouldn’t be that difficult for hotmail or even your exchange admin to get it back by finding that two week old backup tape.

    I think Google’s only crime here is being up front about that fact.

  2. Alex Barnett says:


    Thanks for the feedback – I hear what you are saying – but let me emphasise: "after the termination of your account". If backup is the intended meaning, then maybe this phrase should be revised accordingly, if only to stop me harping on…

    Btw, I don’t think it is a crime to be ‘upfront’, on the contrary, this transparency and openess is required by law – good thing, right? 🙂

  3. Dennis says:

    Of course they have backup tapes. That doesn’t mean that they’re keeping them indefinitely, or mining your emails for marketing data.

  4. Jeff says:

    As I said, people overreact. They assume that Google actually might care what John Q. Netsurfer’s e-mail says. They don’t. It’s like one of the kids that visits my Web site, I delete a stupid post, and the kid thinks I have something personal against him. As if I care about him among the thousands of users. Now multiply that into the millions for Google.

    Someone today blogged about Google’s infrastructure (I forget who) and how there is essentially triple redundancy with servers. If one box goes down in the cluster, there’s a good chance that your precious e-mail will sit dormant on a dead machine. I don’t doubt that’s why they put the clause in their TOS.

    And you need not put quotes around my name. It is actually my name.

  5. Alex Barnett says:

    OK, so either Google have this clause because of the backup OR they keep the data for targetting ads. I want to know which. Clearly.

    Jeff, you’re right, people do overreact – and that is why it needs clarifying: it is the customer’s perception that matters.

    Surely, considering the amount of negative attention this phrasing has had and the effect it would have to recuiting potentential customers (including me), it wouldn’t be too much trouble for Google to clarify this specific point of their privacy policy, in a langauge that a non-tech Joe Blog could understand?


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