Is Google Spying On You?

    November 11, 2004

Is Google reading your email? I guess that depends on who you think Google is, actually. If you think of Google as some vast corporation with lots of employees, then no, they aren’t reading your email. If you think of Google as a large network of Internet servers and computer hardware, then yes, they’re reading your email.

Let me explain.

If you subscribe or have considered subscribing to Google’s GMail ( ), then you’ve no doubt heard the hype about their “privacy-invading” techniques to serve you advertising as you read email.

It’s a lot of hooey.

I have a GMail account and have nothing bad to say about it. I have several websites which use Google’s SiteSearch, Google’s AdSense, and other Google tools to serve advertising and garner revenue. Those ads that you see on the right hand side of the page when you search for something on Google are paid advertisements (the ones labeled “Sponsored Links”). Every time someone clicks on one of those ads while on my site, I get a few cents as payment for displaying the ad.

The ads in GMail look exactly like that and are about as intrusive to your email tasks as they are on that search page…meaning they aren’t.

I have, in the past, had Hotmail, Yahoo!, and other free email accounts online. Without exception, those popped up annoying ads, showed banners somewhere on the screen, or sent me in-house-created email advertisements. That’s how they pay for the service. GMail is no different.

Except they’re scanning your incoming emails for keywords in order to target those ads to your subjects of interest. Just like they scan my website for keywords in order to rank me on the search engine and to display ads relevant to what’s on my site.

I think that privacy advocates are wasting their time fighting Google here. I don’t see anything wrong with GMail – especially since Google is being and always has been very up-front about what they’re doing. Just check out the main page for GMail: there’s a link directly to “privacy concerns” where they spell it all out.

I’m much more incensed with companies that will sell out your information and privacy just to make a buck or two. Furthermore, if you don’t like the idea of Google’s computers scanning your email in order to serve up ads, then don’t sign up for a GMail account. See? You have a choice. Ain’t America great?

Aaron Turpen is the author of “The eBay PowerSeller’s Book of
Knowledge” and the editor/publisher of two successful newsletters, in
their fourth year of publication, The Aaronz WebWorkz Weekly
Newsletter and Aaronz Auction Newsletter. You can find out more about
these and other great resources from Aaron at his website