The Flap Over Gmail


The magnitude of the controversy about Google's new Gmail service is astounding. Many people have decried the attempt of Google to link their new 1Gb email service with targeted ads, searching, and so on. This has led to an anti-Gmail bill in the CA State Senate and I'm sure that won't be the last. I just can't get over the number of people who want to protect me from myself.

Almost every online service requires some kind of identifying information from me in order to provide the service they're offering. Sometimes they need my personal information and money (think Amazon) and sometimes they're willing to just settle for the personal information (Gmail).

Gmail is offering a 1Gb email box in exchange for being able to target ads and so on. This is a transaction. I give information in consideration for the service Google provides. The privacy policy represents the terms of the transaction. Like any other term sheet, I can read it or ignore it, accept it or not. I believe that people enter into such transactions rationally. They know that Google isn't just giving email away and that there's a price to pay.

I encounter the same thing when I go to Albertson's. They want to associate my purchases with my name and address, so they give me a discount on my six-pack of coke if I'll tell them who I am when I check out. When I'm in a good mood I tell them and when I'm cranky I don't. Sometimes I'm willing to give away my personal data in exchange for a buck and sometimes I'm not.

One of the fundamental rights of privacy is the right to do as I please with my personal information. That includes giving it to Google if I want. I don't need the government or other watchdog groups to protect me and I don't think most other people do either. If you truly respect my privacy keep your nose out of my business with Google--its private.