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Sunday, 4 April 2004


The Register reports that Google’s Gmail free email service is coming in for a hammering from US privacy groups. Gmail’s attractions include the fact that it’s free and it comes with 100 times more storage than Yahoo!’s webmail service. But Google’s cookies provide a vast database of sites browsed by its users together with their identities; moreover, the company has said it will retail emails even after users close their accounts. The World Privacy Forum points out that this would give Google the chance to create a definitive electronic profile of its users if it chose to do so. Google promises that no humans will read its customers’ emails, but the fact is that the data is there for anyone who wants to join up the dots …

The IPKat appreciates that most email is of little or no interest to anyone other than the sender (and sometimes the recipient). Nonetheless it is most disquieting to think that such a large quantity of personal information can be mosaiced into pretty detailed personal profiles. Whether this calls for explicit legislation or a code of practice is something that should be considered before the existing "trust" system has its first casualties.

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