Thursday, 15 August 2013

The fuss about Gmail and emails.

According to some recent news"Google has finally admitted they don't respect privacy,". Understand Google has "admitted" they scan Gmail emails for profit.

I've been using Gmail for quite a long time now and well, this is no news at all. It's always been quite clear that by using Gmail, you agree that Google will scan your email content to target advertisement. This is how the (great) service remains free. No mystery there. Nothing to admit really, and as Google puts it, it's always been part of their standard Gmail ordinary business practises. Since 2007.
It's 2013 and Consumer Watchdog called the "revelation" a "stunning admission". Are those people so dumb it took them 6 years to realise what gmail is?

The answer is probably yes, given the fact that John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s privacy project director has declared:  "sending an email is like giving a letter to the Post Office. I expect the Post Office to deliver the letter based on the address written on the envelope. I don't expect the mail carrier to open my letter and read it.".

What is striking in this statement is that the man clearly doesn't know what he is talking about. Sending an email the standard way (meaning without using any additional encryption techniques) has never been like sending a letter (understand a message hidden in an envelope). From the late 60's/early 70's, sending an standard email is more like sending a post-card without envelope wrapping. It will arrive at destination, but you can't expect the postmen not to have a quick look at it. By the way, this is how spam/malware/virus detection works.

A good email analogy

The fact that this John Simpson is not already aware of that clearly demonstrate his lack of technical culture, which is quite ridiculous and worrying for a guy who is a "privacy project director". If I was a "privacy project director", I would probably encourage people who actually care about their privacy to use encryption techniques. Many solutions are available, and again this is no news at all and used routinely by businesses.

All of that makes me think that 20 or so years after the incredible expansion of the web, and 40 something years after the invention of emails, the general public (by that I mean people who are not in IT) is still lacking essential basic IT knowledge. Like how do emails work (not in details of course), or how a website (a simple one) works. Probably the solution resides on better basic computer education.

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