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?
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/>