As a Gmail user most times I pay no attention to the ads that pop up. Around the time of this article I recall having an email discussion with some friends about these same ads and how our emails are “read” in order to target the ads. I laughed because while we were having the conversation I checked my email to see ads were for luxury baby clothes, a European cruise, on-line universities and loans. The luxury baby clothes was particularly hysterical because I was 46 at the time, so babies were NOT in the future, the rest of them made complete sense based on the mail that was in my box at the time. Could this info been intercepted just by scanning the headers, sure, the email content? Sure? Do I care? Yes but…
I don’t know why, maybe its cultural, maybe its big brother paranoia but I’ve never felt secure about ANY communication method other than face to face and even that is dicey depending on the content of the conversation. I always assumed that there is some level of snooping that goes on by the government, having come up in the era of wire-tapping and Watergate and all. That’s not to say that I’m in favor of the government snooping on its citizens, I am not and that’s a discussion for somewhere else, but I assumed that it happens. However, the idea of a for-profit company snooping, even if its only by electronic means and it’s only for targeted advertising is kind of unseemly. What’s even more disturbing is that users of the service supposedly accept snooping when accepting the terms of service. What? I certainly didn’t agree to that and I doubt that a)anyone would agree to it and b)many people even read the terms of service in the first place to figure it out.
What do we do? I think we watch the progress of the original lawsuit. Links to the source documents can be found in this NYT article. As a non-expert, that is all that I can offer. Is Google within its right to read scan email headers for targeted ads? Do you believe your right to privacy has been violated? Is there anything an average Jane/Joe can do about it? Please feel free to let me know either way in the comments or consider a guest post on the subject.