by Mike Masnick

Is Gmail Creepy, Illegal, Or Does It Really Not Matter?

from the and-will-anyone-care? dept

Well, it was not at all difficult to predict that Google would eventually launch an email product. Plenty of people knew that. However, we also predicted the fact that folks would freak out over the privacy issues of sticking Google ads in email. It certainly didn't take long. You don't have to look very hard to find stories with all sorts of scary quotes about how Google's decision to place ads in their email product is potentially illegal or just plain creepy. The thing is, I doubt it's going to make an ounce of difference to the average user. Most of them will say they really don't care if Google's contextualization bots pick out keywords from their incoming email for the sake of advertising. However, what should be fun is hearing all the stories of very poorly placed ads. Back when Google first launched their contextualized advertising for content pages, a story spread about how some newspaper that was running a story about a stabbing murder case was showing "contextualized" ads trying to sell you on a set of knives. It's a bit amusing when it's in a news story - but people might get a bit more offended when something like that shows up in their personal email. Still, I would bet that the concerns are far outweighed by the convenience and the "I really don't care" attitude most people have. On a separate note, it appears that (at least at this moment) the second result if you do a Google search on google email points to Techdirt. Isn't it great that it points to use before it points to the actual Gmail product? And, yes, we're getting a lot of random traffic from that search.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2004 @ 10:29am

    No Subject Given

    I think they're playing the old "If you don't like the terms of our free service, well don't use it" game.

    (Ah, read the TOS for Hotmail, Yahoo mail, etc. accounts lately?)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Chris, Apr 2nd, 2004 @ 11:03am

    No Subject Given

    Cool, so I can get Viagra ads served up with my Viagra spam. That'll be effective!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Ryan King, Apr 2nd, 2004 @ 11:09am

    Re: No Subject Given

    One other thing that's easy to forget is that it's Google Inc. we're talking about here. They have an uncanny ability to do things right.
    It seems unclear exactly what they'll be doing but I suspect the ads will be inserted into e-mail in the same sense they're currently inserted into searches.
    As your read e-mail, boxes will come up along side/on top/inline with keyword driven advertising.
    So you basically have hotmail, minus 90% of the screen pollution, with a 1 gig mailbox and good/fast search tools. What advertising remains will be eerily targeted in Google's usual fairly useful way.
    I call it being a major success fairly quickly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2004 @ 11:13am

    Re: No Subject Given

    I don't see it as a bad thing that the paranoid will stay from this service. True online privacy is an illusion, anyway. You really shouldn't be sending *anything* through email that you wouldn't want someone to get out. That's more of the issue for me, those that think that your "private email" can't be read at the click of a button by any number of Server Admins on any of the hops that your email passes through...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 2nd, 2004 @ 1:40pm

    No Subject Given

    I don't see what the big deal is. There are ads when I read my Yahoo mail and I ignore them. I also ignore Google's contextualized ads. Put the two together and I will ignore that too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    phred, Apr 2nd, 2004 @ 6:50pm


    I kind of like this idea. I'm going to get an account and mention microsoft every other word. let the mad ballmer pay for all the ads I intend to ignore

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    PaulR, Apr 3rd, 2004 @ 9:16am

    Better than the other companies

    I found a screen shot of what it looks like:
    Looks like the ads are on the right-hand side and are clearly marked, just like the search results. That debunks the notion that the ads would be inserted into emails.
    I read someone saying "This is like Google interrupting your phone coversation to tell you about a new restaurant," which just strikes me as bogus--you pay for phone service, and evidently with Gmail the ads aren't even in the same area as the email. This reminds me more of when you go to the grocery store and buy cat food. On your receipt, you may get a coupon to buy some more cat food for 50 cents off. That ad is targeted based on what you bought, so it's more useful than a coupon for car wax or something. I've definitely never seen a customer look at their receipt and get worked up because they got some coupons based on what they just bought. The analogy doesn't work completely though because with free web mail you're getting the groceries for free. :) I'll be giving it a try for the storage space at least; I hate clearing the spam out of my inbox every few days.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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