Free Google GMail; The high price you pay

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?

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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?

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.

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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.

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