Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Friday, September 24, 2004

Gmail is causing privacy afficianados to froth

Gmail is too creepy

I recognise the issues involved, but I still use Gmail, even though I consider myself a tiny bit paranoid in terms of web security and rampant governments. There are features that make it worthwhile for me, and I know enough to know that no e-mail is truly ever private. But, on the other hand...if you're not doing anything illegal or embarrassing, then it shouldn't in theory lead to true horror, unless we fall into such a morass that they're setting up concentration camps, etc., at which point I would already be on lists and I could expect neighbours to rat me out anyway, right?

Granted, someday it might all come crashing down and I'll be quite wrong. But more than likely, pressure would shut down the company's initiative before it ever got to that point. IData-mining is an importatnt part of online business, and consumers sell their souls, to speak, bit by bit for the convenience every day. You have to get to a certain balance. And yes, we should educate people that the net isn't a secure place. I know I share a lot of personal stuff here, but I'm cognizant of the risks, too, and try to minimise them when I can.

On the other hand, I'm not going to feel much sympathy for a paediphile who has lots of pictures sent to a Gmail account and then, to his chagrin, he's busted. Nope, not at all. I suspect terrorists and other organised criminals wouldn't be so stupid, but let's face it, there are stupid criminals out there. I use my Gmail account primarily for busy e-mail lists. So, anyone looking at my records would see things I offered or took through FreeCycle, or what I talked about to various chatty librarians, or discussions on Roman religion. That's okay with me. They also all happen to be archived conversations at places like Yahoo!Groups and Topica, so they're just as open to scrutiny.

I have to admit...yes, there's a huge privacy issue with the net, but in some ways, it also keeps us a little more honest, or at least has that potential. People share a lot of private thoughts online, people up to no good are more likely to get caught, that kind of thing. There are records, far more than there used to be. In some ways it's easier to, say, hide an affair from your spouse, since people can get cell phones and pagers to use for scheduling their rendevousz. But it's easier to track when things do go wrong, say if a person is killed over the affair or disappears, too.

It's a very different world than it was not so long ago, that's for sure.

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