Free Google GMail; The high price you pay

Free Google GMail; The high price you pay

Summary: Do you believe the contents of every personal and business email you ever write or send should be recorded and permanently archived on third party servers located in countries throughout the world, to which you have no access?

TOPICS: Google

DMM91006GD.jpgDo you believe the contents of every personal and business email you ever write or send should be recorded and permanently archived on third party servers located in countries throughout the world, to which you have no access?

If you are one of the millions of GMail users, you have indicated to Google that you most certainly do.

Below are excerpts of Google’s umbrella Privacy Policy and excerpts from its GMail specific and GoogleTalk specific Privacy Policies.

GMail Privacy Policy

Residual copies of deleted messages and accounts…may remain in our offline backup systems.

GoogleTalk Privacy Notice

When you use Google Talk, we may record information about your usage, such as when you use Google Talk, the size of your contact list and the contacts you communicate with.. You may delete your contacts information or chat histories you have stored in your Gmail account by deleting them through Gmail or by deleting your Gmail account from the Google Accounts page. Because of the way we maintain this service, such deletion may not be immediate, and residual copies may remain on backup media.


Google Privacy Policy

Google processes personal information on our servers in the United States of America and in other countries. In some cases, we process personal information on a server outside your own country. We may process personal information to provide our own services. In some cases, we may process personal information on behalf of and according to the instructions of a third party, such as our advertising partners.

Information sharing

We have a good faith belief that access, use, preservation or disclosure of such information is reasonably necessary to (a) satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request, (b) enforce applicable Terms of Service, including investigation of potential violations thereof, (c) detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security or technical issues, or (d) protect against imminent harm to the rights, property or safety of Google, its users or the public as required or permitted by law.

If Google becomes involved in a merger, acquisition, or any form of sale of some or all of its assets, we will provide notice before personal information is transferred and becomes subject to a different privacy policy.

How much is a perpetual data record of your personal and business communications worth to Google?

Google GMail may not at present be generating “material revenues” for Google, but the data the system captures, retains and perpetually stores about individuals’ personal and business activities is being mined by Google to its long-term strategic advantage.

Google SVP Engineering & Research, Alan Eustace, emphasized the long-term “strategic benefits” of its email product to Google at an investor Q & A last week in New York City:

Strategic benefits of our email product are very strong…

The implementation of GMail actually fits very well into our architecture for deploying technology…

It’s also a good place for us to experiment with our advertising technologies and targeting technologies which I think are very useful to us.

It could be a significant revenue stream in the future, but there are other reasons also for us to be in the email market.

Google continuously “experiments” with its advertising and targeting technologies by mining the personal data and activity patterns it 1) captures from users and 2) retains and archives.

What is Google’s end game? Higher Pay-Per-Click search advertising bids and increased clicks on "Sponsored Links."

Google CEO Eric Schmidt, at the Q2 earnings conference call in July, commented on how Google is “busy fine-tuning the ad network”:

there is a set of commercial terms that we can trigger on. When we see those, we can do things that are even more valuable to the end user. If they're more valuable to the end user, it generates more value to the advertiser.

The most extreme form of that would be a specialized site like Google Finance, where we know the user cares a lot about finance. So it should be the case that an advertiser advertising on Google Finance would convert more highly, the revenue would be greater, the ads would have greater value, and should ultimately translate into more revenue for the Company…

So once again, it's end user value, targeting the ads, running these experiments with commercial versus non-commercial, then all of that generates, ultimately, greater return for Google.

Users’ personal data that Google mines in its “free” GMail product enables a “greater return for Google.”

GMail is free to use, but its users are actually selling themselves cheap; Google furthers its monetization of the world’s information by acquiring, cost-free, a treasure trove of personal and business communications data from its users. GMail users, however, are not being compensated by Google for its profiting from the mining of their data.

Moreover, GMail users are enabling Google, a $115 billion market cap corporation, to create and perpetually archive histories of their personal and business communications. Google will have and control more data on individuals than individuals will have on themselves.

Schmidt on Google’s worldwide monetization ambitions:

The world is a very big place and Google has very much a worldwide mission… not just from an information perspective, but also from a monetization perspective…

We don't see any signs of approaching any limits to this vision. The opportunities before us really are unlimited at this point.

For Google, its “unlimited” monetization opportunities include monetizing all the personal information of all the world’s inhabitants.

Schmidt confirmed such at the Search Engine Strategies conference last month:

If you think about it, all the world's information includes personal information. Personal information is held in online word processing, online spreadsheets, online calendar, online email.

Maybe it is time for Google users to demand payment from Google for its monetization of their personal information.


Topic: Google

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  • compensatoin

    Aren't we being compensated by having free email, both personal and hosted, calendars, desktop searches, etc...?
    Wesley A
    • Is Google really that evil?

      Good point. With all the free services Google offers, and the excellent quality of those services, I don't mind giving out some personal information. I don't seem to understand why a company tracking my web surfing habits and having copies of my e-mail is an invasion of privacy. I associate privacy with going to the bathroom or having sex with my wife, not searching for a cheap monitor or a hotel room.

      Sometimes I wonder what "privacy" advocates are doing on the web. Lots of kinky porno maybe?

      Google seems to be a constant target of criticism for being such a large company.
      • Ah, so if you...

        Write a letter (emailed a document) to your lawyer concerning suing the governemtn you have no problem with them sharing it?
        • Come on, it's Google for God sakes

          I wouldn't trust my information online to anyone but Google. As long as they keep up their good track history of protecting user's information then it's not a problem to me. Companies who just "hand over" your information (Yahoo) are the ones who you should worry about. I never do anything illegal (online) so I don't see the problem.
          • uh...

            Is it just me, or does anyone else remember Google buckling under to the Chinese government for censorship issues? They "stood up" to the US government and didn't release info, but to the Chinese, no biggie! You think they haven't/wouldn't provide sensitive information to the Chinese government if it benefited them monetarily? Hell, you think they wouldn't do the same for ANY government in a country they work with if it got them money? They're a FOR PROFIT CORPORATION. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of these idiot conspiracy theorists who figures every corporation is evil, but I think that Google's "Do No Evil" motto should be amended somewhat to include "...unless we can make money off of it." And yes, quite honestly, it scares the crap out of me that some of MY PERSONAL INFORMATION might be stored on some server in a country that doesn't have the same laws and protections that the US does, not to mention the same physical security. You think I'd like to know that credit card info, social security numbers, home addresses and phone numbers, or other important personal knowledge is hosted on a server in say...Iran? Bolivia? Israel? Nigeria? If something like that doesn't scare you, then you have NO idea what someone can do with that kind of information, and you SERIOUSLY need to read up a bit before you make hasty defenses of Google and their "privacy" practices.
            To the people who say that the only people who should be concerned with privacy online are the ones looking up kinky porno, you obviously don't read any news sources. All this information theft from various companies lately? How did it happen? Over networks...THE INTERNET. And...guess what? GOOGLE IS PART OF THE INTERNET. Every piece of information they save could theoretically be taken at any time. I, personally, am extremely afraid of the concept that they may keep my emails archived forever on their servers, and that I have no way to permanently delete them. I don't see why anyone should be able to read private emails to and from my friends and family, much less archive them in perpetuity. If I say "delete," I want something deleted. Maybe not today, but certainly very soon. I understand the need for a paper trail, especially for people who ARE committing crimes online and are stupid enough to use a public email service to do so. Do other services have this problem? Certainly. But you can't say "well, look at all these other evil email systems!" without realizing that Google has the SAME problems and is guilty of the SAME wrongdoing.
            In the grand scheme of things, people need to realize that Google, like ANY company, is run by people, who may not have the users best interests at heart. They are no better than any other big company (MS, Apple, HP, Dell, etc, etc) and they have the same capacity to be "bad" as any other company. Don't be so quick to jump to the defense of Google until you think a little bit about the reality behind them.
            And yes, I use Gmail, daily. I do know a bit about what I am talking about.
          • If ignorance is bliss you must be ecstatic

            You and the author of this so-called "article" should start a tinfoil hat club. Why are you trying to create a buzz about an issue that isn't even an issue?

            Google has never, to my knowledge, violated its own privacy policy by providing my personal information to a 3rd party, so why would they start now when they've promised not to?

            [i]They "stood up" to the US government and didn't release info, but to the Chinese, no biggie! You think they haven't/wouldn't provide sensitive information to the Chinese government if it benefited them monetarily? Hell, you think they wouldn't do the same for ANY government in a country they work with if it got them money?[/i]
            First of all, way to contradict yourself! Second, Google NEVER provided personal information to the Chinese government, MSN did. Google agreed to filter search results on their service to Chinese users, which isn't even close to the same thing. If you don't like them censoring their content in China, don't go to China!

            [i]it scares the crap out of me that some of MY PERSONAL INFORMATION might be stored on some server in a country that doesn't have the same laws and protections that the US does[i/]
            Welcome to the Internet!

            [i]You think I'd like to know that credit card info, social security numbers, home addresses and phone numbers, or other important personal knowledge is hosted on a server in say...Iran? Bolivia? Israel? Nigeria?[/i]
            Google has never even asked me for this information. How can they share it or lose it to someone else when they don't have it?

            [i]you SERIOUSLY need to read up a bit before you make hasty defenses of Google and their "privacy" practices[/i]
            Have you read them at all? Or just the spin from the article?

            The rest of your rant was so much paranoid inane blathering of generizations that it doesn't bear quoting.

            There is no human being at Google reading your emails or chats. They're crawling the information they way they crawl websites, trying to ascertain which of the ads they show will be relevant to you, thus you're most likely to click on. Doesn't that make sense?

            Google is a business, of course they are trying to make a buck, that's what businesses do. Conjecture and hypothetical situations notwithstanding, they do so with a solid business model and a good reputation with their customers.
          • Nothing illegal

            Yet. People forget that a government can make anything it wants
            illegal. I guess they're too busy thinking corporations are the
            biggest threat to their freedoms.
  • Is Google LISTENING to your conversations?

    Scary... umm, "Do No Evil"???
  • What about the returns?

    Sure, I've known Google's been monitoring what I want to do ever since I signed up on their services, starting with Google Homepage/News and going all the way through to Google Talk. But I don't have a problem with it.

    Personally, Gmail is the best e-mail client/address I've had yet. From other free internet based addresses(hotmail, etc) to the ISP-given Outlook Express-type, the only one I've actually liked using is Gmail. I use Google Desktop-and turned on Advanced Features, willingly after reading the subtext "Information about web pages you visit may be sent to Google to personalize features such as the news shown in Sidebar. Other non-personal usage data and crash reports may be sent to Google to improve Desktop. To learn more about our privacy protections, read our Privacy Policy." I've used Google's Blogger to create internet-viewable resources for class projects, because it provides a clean interface and a simple URL, while still being free.

    I guess I'm going off-topic. My point is this; maybe it's not so bad that Google makes all of this profit. As far as I can see, they're one of the most respectable companies out there, offer quality products and services(often for free) and they gradually adapt the current software and products they have out to the user's needs.

    If they're making money off it-good for them. Frankly, I'd pay for a Google OS.
    • Nicely said...

  • Google is an abomination.

    Remember what Steve Ballmer said. 'nuff said.
    • so, let the pot call the kettle black??? This, instead of being careful...

      we're supposed to take the word from one of the 2 men who are really responcible for the biggest "evil organization" in the tech world today, about how someone else is evil...

      give me a break. I use google, and honestly, there's a secret to doing it safely... DON'T GIVE OUT THINGS WHICH ARE TOO PRIVATE.

      maybe it's not such a big deal if you think before you act. I mean, Google has a better track record than most other options... and you could go on about how you can trust no company who is traded on the market, and is out to make a profit...

      Every business is out to make a profit. Google is just taking a longer-term look at it... which in turn means that they have a more sustainable base, and they are much more steady in their abilities...

      I'm frankly surprised that this didn't come forward sooner... after all... those privacy agreements have been out for how many years now?

      You people keep acting like you are among the "general" populace, where common sense isn't too common. Look before you leap, and you won't dive into the shallow end. Think about it, and it makes sense for this to happen...
  • ZDnet is ridiculous

    When I attempted to add my comment, ZDnet required me to join, asking me for my name, address, and personal information. When I did not know if I had already joined in the past, and my guess at a username/password failed, I hit the back button on my browser, and the previously unpopulated page was somehow populated with my email address and password. Then there's the typical box that says "remember my email address and password," which is checked off by default. At this point I filled out the personal information to join, realizing I had not in the past, and failed to fill in a couple fields which were not yellow so did not appear to be necessary, but they were. Hit the back button again and the boxes for "I'd also like to receive the following" which I had UNCHECKED had magically checked themselves. This article I wanted to comment on was about how bad Google is because they collect information? And half of the article is about how Google clearly explains what they are doing? OK, really, my biggest question is, what do people have to hide that they are so afraid of someone seeing their email? If you were a child molester I can understand your need for privacy, but what do most people say in email that is going to be so terrible if it is seen by someone. Are we talking bad about our friends? I use GMail for business and I don't worry about anything. With millions of accounts, I have a feeling they are not scouring my email looking for tidbits of hot gossip about me or valuable secret information about my business. Email should never be considered a secure method of sharing information. Don't blame Google. There is a quite ingenious method that Google is responsible for to create online software, software which never needs to be paid for or updated - it's free and totally maintenance free, and unlike the hundreds of titles offered by Microsoft, who, by the way, charges you not only for the software the first time, but then charges you for upgrades to fix the broken software they sold you the first time, Google's software is insightful, intelligent, user-friendly, and just works. I'll take it. Take your worries elsewhere. Google and Apple are poised to become the first software competitors to put Microsoft and it's shoddy product out of business. Mark my words, it is history in the making, and it's unneccesary to spend so much energy worrying that they are reading your email. Silly if you ask me.
  • This article is LAME.

    You also pay a high price using Yahoo Mail or Hotmail as well. How do you know what they do with your emails and other data?

    Plus, Gmail doesn't even ask you for your gender, birthdate, and your postal code. Yahoo and Microsoft do. Gmail doesn't sell your info to third parties either. Did you know that Yahoo! does? (With your consent, of course!) You should read the Terms of Service and Privacy Policies of ALL free email service providers and not just criticize Gmail.

    Have you read Yahoo! Mail's policy on Data Storage? Theirs is extremely similar to Gmail's policy on data storage. Here, read it: "Please note that any information that we have copied may remain in back-up storage for some period of time after your deletion request." Define Yahoo's "some period of time". Is this period of time shorter than that of Gmail's???


    You haven't done enough research.

    Gmail outlines its privacy policy and terms of service in a transparent manner.

    Stop writing negative things about Gmail already. If you don't use it, it's fine, but you don't have to tell others not to use it. I'm so sick and tired of reading these things. Why don't you write some negative things about Yahoo and Microsoft? I'm sure you could find more negative things on them.

    If you are extremely concerned about your privacy. Don't do anything online. Don't send emails. Don't join websites like ZDNet (Why do you need my home address and need to know what I do for a living?). Don't write entries in your blog. Don't search.

    People who don't use Gmail are missing out on cool /convenient things. Plus, POP and fowarding is free. I don't have to waste 20-something bucks every year (it all adds up). I can spend this 20-something bucks on charity.
  • ZDNET is a horrible monopoly

    ZDNET sucks and they always have. You know who own's the majority of all the magazines filled with ad's? Ziff Davis...Who has the most uninformative magazines on the market? Ziff Davis....
    What company attacks the best search engine / marketing company / e-mail provider in the world? Ziff Davis...
    Ditto with comments above on how Gmail is superior to all other e-mail services.
    Google no doubt uses data mining for advertising purposes. And I give them a nice big 2 thumbs up for being smart enough to do this. Ziff Davis would be advertising gardening supplies to someone who lives in a 6th story condo, meanwhile Google will advertise what that user likes.
    I hope your monopoly goes under quickly, and all your shitty magazines along with that TechTV or ZDTV or whatever it is called now.
    As far as I hear the channel doesn't even have shows related to computers anymore, and even when they did have shows about computers I always wanted a true nerd show....not a show for noobs.
    • Monopoly? Huh?

      I think it's OK to flame. In fact, it's a time honored tradition. But to flame with all the wrong facts isn't so OK. Do you know that ZDNET has nothing to do with Ziff Davis and hasn't for years and years? ZDNET is part of CNET and has no affiliation with any of the magazines you mention. Also regarding Tech TV. Sorry dude, it doesn't exist any more and hasn't for years. There is something called G4 (who's parent company bought Tech TV and killed it off about 4 years ago), but ZDTV/TechTV died a long time ago. So, while the commentator you flame has HER facts straight about Google, maybe you should park it until you have a real take with the correct facts.
  • The hairy privacy issue and Google's business model

    There is no question that privacy ethics can no longer operate under its current assumptions. Your financial information is on your bank's central server; your Social Security information is on some DoD analyst's hard drive; all the information stored on your driver's license (your birthday, your home address, your gender, whether you need glasses) is on your state government's network. When all of that is out there, available to any disgruntled employee who can't afford a new 72" plasma HDTV on his or her salary, what does it matter if you vote with your virtual dollars for Google Mail?

    Life is a long series of gambles. Will I stay locked up in my parents' basement for 30 years, or move to a cabin in the woods and hunt squirrels for dinner ad infinitum because heaven forbid that someone handle my personal information? Or will I go out in the world, get a job, ask that cutie in Accounting out, sign up for that SuperBonus FreshSavings card at the grocery store and just accept the fact that what I'm doing is inherently risky?

    On a side note, I got this login off because I didn't want to take the time to enter all my personal information at yet another annoying news site. This is not my email address, or my name, but rather that of someone who willingly put her login on a website for other people to use. As a return favor, I replaced all the text in her user profile with a note of explanation as to why it's a bad idea to share your login info and then disclose your full home address.

    I feel like I'm having trouble getting my main point across, but what I'm trying to say is that you can't call a company that data mines for profit inherently bad anymore. It used to be that data mining was exclusively the purview of corporations that turned around and sold that info to people who called you during dinner (not a benefit, unless you're in the middle of an awkward conversation). However, now that I'm getting a feature-laden, completely free email system with a heaping side order of geek cred, I'm not so sure that I mind letting the data miners know that I'm a vegetarian and that Italian Greyhounds are my favorite breed of dog.

    I could go on, but my carpool is here. Hope I've contributed something worthwhile to the discussion.
  • Can't have it both ways...

    At least Google are being honest and upfront about the possibility of archives holding material you have asked to be deleted. But what user can serious expect to have a secure and reliable service and not have some of the their data stored in legacy archives for at least some period of time?

    If that's too risky, then author should try looking after their own email sometime. They'll soon discover how the complexity of virus filtering, spam filtering, dns delegation, storage, backup, worldwide access, sender policy frameworks, authentication and security. All this comes from Google - and for free.

    The author should also take some time to read some of the white papers on Google's web site about their clever spam filtering tactics and so on.

    Historically, I find Ms Bogatin's blogs trite and unresearched. Giving them any credence is the "High Price [We] Pay" when we publish innumerable blogs as "editorials" from everyone and anyone without requiring any journalistic integrity.
  • GMail
  • NO google isnt bad

    Basically it breaks down to google wanting to maintain its service for its users the reason they store your information on third party servers is so that if there server crashes they have backups of your information also theyre server may become overloaded and need another system to assist with the traffic so if you feel that you are still being fucked over dont use any websites or email clients because almost all of them store your information on remote servers and it takes time for them to remove that information from those servers though it is a security risk it is manditory because dedicating a building full of super computers to Gmail is pointless it is more efficient and cheaper to disperse the information and traffic so NO Google is not doing anyhing wrong and you are NOT paying any real price for using there services and if you still feel that no one should use gmail or any email client in that case GO FUCK YOURSELF!