Microsoft’s latest, and now retired, Scroogled campaign focused on accusations that Google violates your privacy by screening your emails and serving ads. It’s true that Google does serve ads on emails through a computerized algorithm, but one congressman has bought into Microsoft’s claim.
During an ECPA hearing this week, Rep. Louie Gohmert was questioning Google’s Richard Salgado about Gmail and privacy. The congressman somehow got it in his head that Google sells private information contained in your emails to advertisers. From there, the conversation slowly devolved into Gohmert asking inane question after inane question with Salgado doing his best to explain that Google doesn’t actually sell information to advertisers while Gohmert insists that it must.
Anyway, just watch the exchange.
Email privacy is incredibly important, and Gohmert’s intentions are noble. He obviously wants to protect email from the prying eye of government. Unfortunately, he displays a total lack of understanding of how email and online advertising works.
What’s interesting is that Salgado, in his written testimony, argued that ECPA should require law enforcement to obtain warrants before accessing private emails. Gohmert completely disregards this testimony as he starts to wonder if Google will start working with the government to scan for keywords, like “terrorism” or “Benghazi.”
As Salgado says, it’s an apple and oranges situation. The tools that Google provides to advertisers are inherently different to the the tools used by law enforcement. Even if the government did snoop on your email, it wouldn’t be using an advertising algorithm because it wouldn’t return any information. Law enforcement’s goal is to collect data, and Google’s email advertising does no such thing.[h/t: TechDirt]