Gmail

When Google announced that its soon-to-be-released Gmail system would archive all the emails its accounts receive, privacy advocates were up in arms. Never deleting an email on a private mail server, they said, is just like Big Brother. Google's defense was that it would only want to know in order to target the ads better. They weren't going to share your emails, they just wanted to have an accurate picture of what products and services you might be inclined to pay for. 1000MB of storage isn't free, you know.

The argument could be made that it's fine as long as only Google has the information, but what if the government asks for it? That is a good argument, and the people making it can point to the TSA's requests for passenger information from airlines as evidence that it could happen. I think, however, that Google simply has too much at stake to share its subscribers' information with the government, given that no secret can be kept for long. In any case, unless you use encryption, if They want to read your email, They will. But I digress.

I just opened a Gmail account (yes, I am 1337). I have sent exactly three emails with it, two as tests. One was a real email, and I sent it a little after 5am EST. As you might imagine it contained a lot about not sleeping, but without using the word "insomnia."

When I review this message in my Sent Mail folder, the five unobtrusive text ads in the sidebar are all in some way about sleeping, four of them directly about insomnia and the fifth related to both sleeping and something else in the email. This, dear readers, is one of the benefits of a database nation. These are ads that I might actually be interested in, paying for 1000MB of email storage. Indeed, with a working spam filter I might never have to delete an email from this account, just like Google says.

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