Privacy Group Wants FTC To Shut Down Gmail… Again

from the give-it-up dept

I think privacy is a very important issue that often is given short-shrift… but I’ve never been able to understand some of the positions staked out by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), who seems to have decided long ago that, even if people are making a conscious choice, anything that puts their privacy at risk is downright evil and must be stopped. When Google first launched Gmail back in 2004, EPIC went ballistic saying that it needed to be shut down as a privacy violation. Most people responded by getting Gmail accounts as quickly as they could.

Apparently, EPIC isn’t giving up this fight, even though five years have gone by and Gmail has become a popular email service for many, many people online. EPIC has now asked the FTC to shut down all Google online applications, from Google Docs to Gmail, claiming that they’re unable to “adequately safeguard the confidential info” of users — and comparing those apps to a faulty car seat for kids (hyperbole, much?).

This all seems designed to get EPIC attention rather than to actually help consumers. The likelihood of the FTC agreeing with EPIC seems slim (which even EPIC seems to admit). People are pretty aware of what risks they’re taking on by putting stuff on Google’s servers, and Google has a pretty clear track record of doing its best to keep that info private. But most people feel that the risk is slight and the trade-off and value from the services is obviously worth it. Thus, it’s not actually a privacy issue at all — because most people are comfortable with the situation. So, why is EPIC trying to take away such useful services from millions of people who have come to rely on them?

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Companies: epic, google

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Comments on “Privacy Group Wants FTC To Shut Down Gmail… Again”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

So, it’s just another group trying to soak up some money from Google, and they’re trying to accomplish this by pretending to want to protect our privacy? As a previous poster noted, who the hell named EPIC my privacy advocate? I’ll speak for myself, and EPIC can go trolling for money using some other scam.

Joel Coehoorn says:

Track Record

> “Google has a pretty clear track record of doing its best to keep that info private.”

Many other companies have an equivalent track record, but aren’t necessarily worthy of the same level of trust. They’re just haven’t been unlucky enough to have a known data breach yet.

The difference for Google (and other internet businesses) as opposed to banks or retailers is that they are in the business of managing online data, and have been from the beginning. This isn’t some afterthought that they’ve asked their existing internal staff or some brand new fresh-from-college team to build on to an existing system. It’s at the core of their business in a way that brick and mortar outfits have not yet been able to match.

John Doe says:

Re: Google shills

And just who are you shilling for? Google’s #4 by whose counting? Most rankings have it #3, and that’s mainly because Yahoo and Hotmail have hundreds of thousands of abandoned accounts which aren’t being used simply because they were started long before there was a Google. Let’s compare actual traffic sent by the mail servers (as traffic will still be received sent to abandoned accounts which populate spam lists).

And, of course, since Google isn’t making a dime from Gmail, why would they be shilling it in the first place?

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Privicy or security?

I’m not quite getting it. Are they worried about Google using the data that’s on their servers or are they worried about someone hacking into Google’s servers?

When I started using G-Mail and G-Documents I knew the risks and I knew what EPIC was saying about them and still chose to use it. Why is that so wrong?

mike42 (profile) says:

Ray Ozzie - Groove Man

See guys, if the FTC shuts down Google services, everyone has to go elsewhere for their collaboration tools. What was Ray Ozzie doing before Microsoft? Running a corp that made a collaboration tool called Groove! That tool was dead before he got on at M$, and it’s really dead now (just an extra piece of Office). They are after Google to increase the penetration of Groove and Sharepoint, plain and simple.

Anonymous Coward says:


I’m going to put my life secrets on here. PLEASE do not read this comment as I expect this to remain perfectly private! Seriously if you read any further I’m going to sue you!

I killed my father
married my mother
got mommy pregnant
locked up my sister/daughter in the basement
got her pregnant
never let my daughter/granddaughter/niece out of the basement
and so on and so forth

You read it didn’t you … I HATE you!!

TX CHL Instructor (profile) says:

I've had a gmail account since January 2004

I’ve seen a few glitches in gmail, but not as many as I have seen in my ISP’s email servers. Which, btw, I never use. I have my own domains, and I use email addresses in those domains forwarded to my gmail account for the higher quality spam filtering, as well as the ability to add my own filter rules easily. I even have multiple gmail accounts that apply different filters before forwarding to another of my gmail accounts. The result is remarkably spam-free email, although not yet perfect.

But I don’t *depend* on gmail (or any other Google service). I download and archive everything myself on a regular basis, and I don’t use gmail (or any other Google service) for anything with financial importance to myself (like account passwords). I will always archive my own email, and I will always use addresses with domains that I control for important email.

I like Google documents, too, but I don’t ever entrust the only copy of anything important to them.

That said, I would echo the sentiments of some of the prior commentors, namely, who the hell put EPIC in charge of anything? Thanks to the Empty Suit from Chicago with the Blank Resume, my business is booming!

NullOp says:

The Real Poop

If you’re really putting your most secret, private info on the web then you’ve got a serious case of “DumbAss.” Never, and I mean NEVER, transmit anything you don’t absolutely have to. Yeah, I know, everyone buys stuff off the net but thats not Google.

On second thought, just email me your credit card numbers and i’ll keep ’em safe for you. No, really, I will….

Michael Talpas (profile) says:

Anyone have EPIC's email?

Seriously, does anyone have their email? The idea of losing my Gmail account makes me all cold inside. I want to send them an email telling them to stop what they are doing, because I need that account.

I have two email accounts, Yahoo and Gmail. I use Yahoo for job searching and dealing with the internet at large (for instance, I use my Yahoo account here). I use Gmail for talking with my family and friends. If Gmail goes down, I’d lose all my conversations with them! The very idea makes me all cold inside.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Anyone have EPIC's email?

I do not think you will have to worry. Shutting down gmail would be like USPS saying sorry 3rd largest city that receives letters but we are no longer delivering mail to your city. You can get a new mail box in one of the other cities (e-mail provider) but forwarding from the old address is not allowed so start contacting every one that would ever send you some thing and let them know.

Rekrul says:

Where was all the outrage over Hotmail or any of the other dozens of web-based email providers?

I have an account on that I use when I don’t want to give out my normal email address. When I created it, I used all fake information. The only information they could possibly know about me is what IP address I connect from and whatever I write in an email. The second part can be easily avoided by using an encryption program to encrypt your message before sending it to the web site.

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