Senate Approves Bill Concerning Gmail Policies

    May 27, 2004

A bill authored by Senator Liz Figueroa (D-Ca) that limits Gmail’s ad placement procedures has been approved by the Senate by a vote of 24-8. The bill questioned Google’s intention of placing contextual ads within incoming and outgoing emails.

The ad placement is accomplished by Google scanning the content of the email and then placing relevant text ads. Senator Figueroa relayed her fears to the AP. She is worried that email providers might “use our e-mails to create profiles on us, based on our most personal and intimate thoughts.”

The bill that went through the Senate was not the original version written by Senator Figueroa. The initial bill, which Google opposed, banned the scanning of emails with consent of both the sender and the receiver.

The newer version of the bill allows the scanning of emails, but does not allow this information to be stored in a database. It also bans the selling and sharing of information gained from emails to 3rd party companies.

Another requirement set forth by the bill disallows email providers from storing mailings once they have been marked for deletion. Originally, Google had said they would keep copies of emails that users selected to be deleted. “That was a big concern of privacy advocates,” Figueroa said. “We were concerned that stored e-mails could be used for other purposes.”

Next up for the bill is the Democratic controlled California Assembly, which Senator Figueroa expressed confidence in the bill’s chances of passing.

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