Although Google’s practice of scanning the contents of mail to provide relevant ads is not new, it has come to light again after Edward Snowden released information about the NSA’s far reaching data collection programs. It seemed that the thing privacy advocates feared most had come to pass and all of our electronic information was subject to collection, cataloging and search without any warrant or notification (in clear violation of the 4th amendment to the constitution). People everywhere are now concerned that the information they send it being collected and misused. Google’s scanning practices appear to be suspect in the collection of our information.
Google maintains that the scanning is a service (and on the users agree to when singing up). They say that their scanning is to prevent spam, malware and also to ensure that the ads displayed when logged into their Google accounts. They maintain that since there are no people reading the mail this wholesale scanning is ok.
“No humans read your e-mail or Google account information in order to show you advertisements or related information”
Ever since the leak by Edward Snowed the companies that handle our electronic information have put their marketing and legal departments in overdrive to justify their intrusions into our private information. Microsoft has attempted multiple statements stating that they only give over information required by law, but have neglected to state that many of the national security letters they receive are targeted at large groups of individuals. Google is in the same boat and obviously had their legal team shore up their term and conditions for just such an emergency. These agreements that users are required to accept before being allowed to use services have become an increasing source of concern as Google and others have tried to add in wording that removes the right to privacy and in some cases actually grants the company ownership of all data and information stored on their servers.
It seems that despite the massive impact the revelation of PRISM and XKEYSCORE were they are truly only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what is being done to the information you put in the hands of various internet companies. According to Google at least, once you hand it off, well what happens to it is out of your hands and there is nothing you can do about it.
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