Stop the presses. The media made a mistake and didn't really correct it. That's just how it goes in the beyond breakneck pace of the Internet age. This week, news outlets trumpeted the "shocking admission" by Google that Gmail users don't have a "legitimate expectation of privacy." But as it turns out, poor, innocent, don't be evil Google wasn't being nearly as evil as reported. As Mashable writer Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai (and a few other folks) pointed out in this week's lead Searchlight item, Google's nose-thumbing at privacy was misrepresented. The company's supposed snarkiness was taken out of context from a legal motion in a class-action lawsuit involving Gmail.
Of course, even if Google did make that statement, there would be no call to stop the presses. Because, reader, when it comes to email privacy, and that of data in general, here's the reality: If you expect total privacy, you are living back in the days when there were presses to be stopped.
It's been known for years that Google scans the contents of Gmail, looking to identify spam and naturally to help target advertising. It's right there in the privacy statement no one reads. Where was the uproar back then? Perhaps this is just a post-NSA admission that we wouldn't be as far down this privacy-deficient path if anyone had made a peep. Suddenly it's fashionable to get on the Internet privacy outrage bandwagon.
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What's the future of email privacy? Popular encrypted email providers Lavabit and Silent Circle folded up their tents rather than folding to the feds, diminishing the options for "reasonably" private email. The answer could come from megalomaniac Mega founder Kim Dotcom. Since Dotcom's popular file-sharing site Megaupload was shut down in January 2012, the polarizing entrepreneur launched Mega, which offers encrypted cloud storage on non-U.S. servers. This week Dotcom said he believes Mega can provide end-to-end encrypted email, but that could be a ways off. CEO Vikram Kumar acknowledged that giving the average user the sort of everyday email features they expect, such as the ability to search, will be "very hard." Well, sure it is, or else everyone would be doing it.
- Can't believe Google would so flagrantly pshaw your email privacy? They didn't. (At least not this week.)
- And the NSA hits just keep on coming -- thousands of them, The Washington Post reports.
- Once upon a time, people couldn't put them down, now no one wants to pick them up. With its competitors unlikely to buy, it seems the end is nigh for Blackberry.
- Moving all users to a single device sounds like a win-win for IT and the business, but this explanation from blogger Brian Katz concluded this solution leaves no wins for end users.
- Tired of predictive analytics stories that espouse new and better ways to enhance consumption? Well this story is about that too, but in good way!
- Whether you consider him an impolitic polemicist or a much-needed B.S. detector, Evgeny Morozov's less than sunny views of the Internet Age are nothing if not an interesting departure from the usual TED Talks kumbaya.
Let us know what you think about the story; email Karen Goulart, features writer.
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Karen Goulart asks:
Is expecting email privacy unreasonable?
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