Why Gmail and other e-mail services aren’t really free
Gmail doesn’t cost any money to use, but it’s not free. Google’s popular online e-mail service, which turns 10 Tuesday, may not charge for its Gmail accounts. But the company is still collecting payment in the form of massive amounts of personal information about the people who use it. With an estimated 500-plus million users, Gmail has grown to dominate the Web-mail world. It has also repeatedly found itself in hot water over privacy. Gmail is facing multiple privacy lawsuits in the United States and Europe, some accusing the company of illegal wiretapping for scanning the content of e-mails. Google reported $45.8 billion in revenues for the last quarter of 2019 alone. One way it makes money from Gmail is by automatically scanning and indexing messages and using the data it mines to show relevant ads to its users.”The basic premise of Gmail is, we’ll give you a robust e-mail service and in exchange, we want to display ads alongside our e-mail and we’re scanning your e-mail to decide what ads are most relevant,” said Eric Goldman, a professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law.
Users in the U.S.Scanning and ads Gmail looks for keywords that identify topics of discussion based on things such as frequency and context, then matches the e-mail up with related ads. A conversation thread about meeting up at a spinning class, for example, might trigger an ad for a weight-loss product. Data gathered through e-mail scanning can also be used to create user profiles for future ad targeting. What many consumers don’t consider is that companies such as Google can create a comprehensive profile of each user based on information from different products such as search, maps, e-mail and Google+, its social network.”Nothing in life is free, and as a result, it is important for people to understand what value they bring to a free service of any kind,” said Behnam Dayanim, a partner at the law firm Paul Hastings LLP in Washington. When people send and receive messages using a free e-mail service, they are sharing details about their interests, who their connections are and what their finances look like. That information might seem mundane on the surface, but when extracted and organized, it’s incredibly valuable to marketers and advertisers.
Google’s Gmail: 10 years of dominance 04:36One thing that hasn’t changed is the federal law with the biggest impact on how and when companies can share data with third parties. The Electronics Communication Privacy Act is a dusty piece of legislation passed in 1986, long before the era of cloud-based e-mail. Many legislators and technology companies (including Google) have lobbied to have the law updated to reflect the times. Meanwhile, consumers must increasingly weigh the value of using a free e-mail service such as Gmail against their personal privacy.
This article was published on cnn.com
27 January 2021
28 January 2020
27 September 2019