Friday, 29 May 2015

Death to Gmail

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Although this blog is [currently] hosted on Google facilities, I very openly advocate the need to be fearful and keep one’s distance from this overreaching giant. One such recent separation move from the company I once highly regarded, back in its days of doing no evil, has been the retirement of my Gmail email address. However, one can only run away from Gmail that far: a third to a half of all the emails I am sending, or receiving, go or come from Gmail addresses*.
Information I have stumbled upon this week put the need to disassociate myself from all manner of Gmail incarnations to a state of emergency mode. As you can read here, new documents revealed by Google in court reveal the detailed and massive level of scrutiny we are all under when we pass under Google’s radar. Which is, in effect, and as per my Firewall’s inputs, is almost all the time. That first article links to this article, discussing – in detail – the thorough way in which Google reads Gmails and analyses them. This is genuinely scary stuff.
Yes, I can still imagine there will be a whole lot of people arguing I am fussing over nothing, and who cares if Google knows so much about them. They’re right; that truly explains why Google bothers to collect so much information in the first place and only release some details on its operations when forced to by the courts. It is clear Google would never abuse the information it has, especially not in order to gain financial profits. It is also clear no one would ever be able to put their claws on the information Google is storing in order to abuse it as per their own special whim. Indeed, we can all trust Google when it acts as the self appointed  guardian of the detailed encyclopaedia on everything there is to know about us.
Cynicism aside, the matter at hand is quite serious. I have mentioned before there are plenty of health providers out there that rely on Gmail addresses for their core communications. Then there are the billions of Android users who have to use Gmail on their smartphones**. It’s an epidemic!


Image by Anne Petersen, Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) licence

*It is interesting to note that today we have received news of a class action against Yahoo receiving the green light to go ahead. Yahoo is blamed for scanning the emails of people who did not accept its terms & conditions - people who sent emails to Yahoo addresses, as opposed to people sending emails from Yahoo addresses. No doubt Google will take an active part in Yahoo's defence with this one.

**Google has announced today a new mechanism that would allow it to scan all user app interactions in Android when the home button is pressed. Just in case it wasn't invasive enough.

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