Gmail: What were they thinking?

I've been thinking about this quite a bit. Google's proposed gmail will 'read' your email and based on words/subjects/etc that it finds it will target ads at you whenever you go to the site to read your mail.  It will store up to one gigabyte of email for you and use all this 'history' to datamine subject matters that might be interesting to you.  On the surface (if you ignore the glaring privacy concerns) this might seem like a good idea.  Why waste time showing me adds for golf resorts when I don't golf?  But show me an add for a tropical get-away at a dive resort and I might just click!

Of course, as it turns out this is a really bad idea.  Not that I wouldn't mind getting ads showing me luscious beach-scapes and crystal clear oceans.  It's just that very little of my mail actually pertains to anything I'm at all interested in.  What's this?  Don't believe me?  The truth is, 90 percent of all mail messages I recieve on my 'public' accounts are spam, messages sent out by disreputable personages trying to hock their wares.  So, if google uses this data to determine what I'm interested in, then all they'll find are subjects pertaining to insurance, home loans, pornography, viagra and various other unmentionables.

I really don't need more pop-up ads targetting this stuff.   


Comments (12)

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  1. matt T says:

    Okay. so now think about this. Do you _really_ think theyre going to datamine the spam? No. Methinks not. So… in reality theyre only going to looking at that 10% that _does_ pertain to your daily interests. Hmmm. Seems like a good idea to me.

  2. and since when does google have pop-up ads?

  3. Anyone know the position of Hotmail on this? I know the MS has already said they plan to use Hotmail as a basis of a spam filtering system – which presumably means that they access the content of emails. I could find nothing in the T&C or privacy statements which says that Hotmail does not access / harvest data from emails – anone know?

  4. Matt: If you have looked at the gmail screenshots (like this one – circulating you’ll see that the ad’s appear similarly to the AdWords you see on many websites (used to help funding) and the site links that show up on the far right when you do normal google searches. One of the Google guys also said that ad’s won’t show up all the time, just every once in a while. They also said they’ll have an extensive spam filtering system so spam should hopefully be kept at a minimum.

    Scott: I’d guess MS’s spam filters largely take into account the e-mail users have reported as junk mail on their Hotmail accounts to get some sort of community-driven and constantly improving spam filter. I also think they use these summed up filtering criteria when they periodically release new spam filters for Outlook 2003. This is pure speculation on my behalf though 😛

  5. James says:

    You can bet Google will be ignoring the spam in your emails and trying to hoan in on the relevant ones. Perahps they will only target based on the emails you SEND out? Who knows. But I think we can bank on the fact that you won’t be seeing 90% of the adds being related to the subjects you mentioned. On top of that, I doubt very many of these questionable companies are going to fork out the cash required to have their adds served by Google. They have already shown us that they prefer the SPAM way of doing things.

    I certainly appreciated your opinion and it made me do some thinking myself.

  6. dean says:

    and how do you guys feel about google datamine your personal mail? sorry, but i wouldn’t..

  7. Daniel Jin says:

    come on, who doesn’t want targeted ads for penis enlargers from trustworthy vendors? 🙂

    seriously though, like many have said before, a big concern here is really privacy. do you want to hand your life over to google?

  8. Brian says:

    Who cares about google looking through their email? Not me. I’d love to have a gig of background email that I don’t have to worry about deleting. Also, if you look at the reviews, it seems to do threading, a labeling system and quick card like interfaces for emails. Looks like a great system.

    Google is already reading the entire internet just about. If the next generation "Search Wars" (as everybody calls them) heat up, then it won’t be just google going through your personal information. It’ll be MS on your home computer, google, yahoo. etc. My dad used to says "Locks are for honest people". Real privacy is a thing of the past. Get over it. Just enjoy the benefits and try to avoid the ads. 🙂

  9. Peter says:

    I’ve been using gmail for a while and to be honest the ads are so small and discrete that I hardly notice them.

  10. Collin says:

    Um, it shows you ads that relate to the current email you are looking at, it doesn’t index past emails afaict.

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