Is your email really Private?

The usage of internet based email systems have been increasing greatly in the past few years. When a message is sent, it may travel and be stored on networks and computers without the sender’s or recipient’s control. This fact has raised some implications related to privacy lately.

One of the biggest companies in the world, Google, with about 425 million email account users is being accused of “playing fast and lose” with people’s privacy. According to a lawsuit, filed in May, the company opens, reads, acquires, collects, and mines valuable information from “private” emails in order to target ads to their Gmail users. This suit also claims that it is not right for the tech giant to scan/read emails sent from non-Google accounts.

Google defended itself by saying that the accusers were making an attempt to criminalize ordinary business practices. Google also said that it has been part of Gmail’s service since its introduction and that all email users should expect that their emails will be subject to any kind of automatic processing.

The giant uses an analogy of a business situation where a sender of a letter to a business colleague who would not be surprised that the recipient’s assistant opens the letter. People who use web-based email systems should not be shocked if their information, in this case email, is being processed by an electronic communication service. On the other hand John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s privacy project director, said that it is a incorrect analogy. He says that if you are sending email is like sending a letter through the post office, you are not expecting that the post office will open the letter and read it. You are expecting that the post officer will deliver the letter according to the address written on the letter.

How much security should be expected from a web based internet system that is free for users? Companies are in the business of making money and if they are not going to make money on the front end by charging for their services how can they be expected not to find ways to make money on the back end of these kinds of systems?

References:

theguardian.com. Dominic Rushe 15 August 2013. Accessed on 07 September 2013 <http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/aug/14/google-gmail-users-privacy-email-lawsuit>

administradores.com. 14 August 2013. Accessed on 07 September 2013 <http://www.administradores.com.br/noticias/administracao-e-negocios/google-afirma-que-usuarios-do-gmail-sabem-que-nao-tem-privacidade/78989/>

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Is your email really Private?

  1. This is an interesting topic, I have noticed a long time ago that Google has started showing ads that have to do with some of my emails and I agree with the analogy about email being like a post office rather then a secretary.It makes one winder about other internet sites that could use your information. I know a while ago Facebook changed their policies and now everything that anyone uploads to Facebook belongs to them and they can use it however they want, also if someone deletes their profile it doesn’t get totally deleted. All of your information gets stored permanently. I saw an article somewhere online a while ago that mentioned this and basically said that they could use this to start selling peoples information. It kinda sucks and is partially the reason I don’t really use Facebook all that much, but I don’t really use any social media because I really don’t like it. Social media has gotten way out of control and I personally don’t find it addicting at all like other people. I only use it to stay in touch with friends and family and even then they are lucky if I go on once every two weeks.

  2. Although the intent of advertising to the right groups may seem harmless, there seem to be many wrongs behind this scheme. First of all, it seems to be a definite violation of an individual’s privacy to search through his or her e-mails. Even though g-mail users are utilizing Google’s services, this does not authorize those that work behind the scenes to pick through e-mails with the purpose of targeting specific ads to users. In many cases, e-mails are exchanged that contain private information, such as passwords and credit card information, that could be very harmful to the sender if said information fell into the hands of someone with ill intent. Nevertheless, this point does not hold true when it comes to businesses and the supervising of employee e-mails. Enterprises should be permitted to monitor the business-issued e-mail addresses of their employees in order to maintain proper protocol within the company. In my opinion, customized advertising is certainly not worth jeopardizing the sense of security that users have in their e-mail accounts.

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