Guest Author - Leena Kothari
On April 1st, in what at first appeared to be an April Fools joke, Google announced their newest on-line service called GMail. GMail is a Free email service that will be offering an impressive 1GB of free storage. Sound like there's a catch? If you subscribe to GMail you will be allowing Google to scan your mail to create keywords, and to use those keywords to display content sensitive ads alongside your mail. To some people this is a big catch, and the GMail announcement has created a flurry of controversy as to whether this technology is an invasion of privacy.
First of all I have to say that GMail will have a lot of nice features. With the 1GB of storage you will never have to delete email and you can keep it all in one place. Google's famous search capabilities will allow you to search you mail, which will eliminate the need for organizing your mail. When the message is found it will be displayed along with any other messages that are attached to it. In GMail you can chat with the people you already email. There will be no banners or pop-up ads, which is a very attractive thing.
All ads will be text based and tailored to the content of the email, which is a very controversial thing. Images will not be displayed, reducing the chance of the user inheriting tracking software, that can be buried in images. GMail will also provide for filtering of mail and will have a spam blocker. Overall it looks really great, but there are many who are opposed to the fact that Google
will be using it's AdSense technology to scan the mail messages.
AdSense is a software, and what it basically does is scan the content of a web page and create keywords to define that web page. It then goes to Google's store of advertisers, selects the most relevant advertising and displays it
on the web page. This technology is nothing new, most web sites have this kind autonomous program to display advertising. The idea of using this technology to scan personal email is what has sparked the controversy.
Initially Google has only released GMail to 1000 users in a limited 3 to 6 month test period. Currently you can subscibe to GMail by creating an account like other free email services.
use the service if you're not comfortable with it, but I believe there is also a principle here that needs to be upheld. The choice will probably lie with the individual, and in that case I say "Buyer Be Aware", make the choice but be sure you know what you're choosing. For myself, I don't feel comfortable with the idea, I think I'll stay with what I have.