privacy and vulnerability

Danah has some good points about the problems with Google’s new mail service. It’s not that their bots filter your mail – so do the virus and spam-scanners your ISP probably uses. It’s that they make it visible to you and that makes you feel vulnerable. Google gives you ads that are relevant to your email. Now imagine the ads you’d see if you emailed a friend your uncertainty about whether or not to get an abortion. I’m sure you can think of other uncomfortable ad situations. Danah sensibly compares it to the panopticon, and writes:

Both Amazon and Google are making the fact that they have your data transparent to you, reminding you that you’re being watched. Both are using your data to sell you something. The difference is that you go to Amazon to shop… you go to Google to personally communicate. And you don’t want to feel invaded in that process. No one wants the feeling of Big Brother sitting around. And it doesn’t matter if that’s not true. If people _feel_ that way, it sucks.

14. April 2004 by Jill
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