Today people are beginning to kvetch about the privacy implications of Gmail. The concerns hinge on a number of issues:
- Google will be able to correlate what people search for with their email identity if they use Gmail. You give up some anonymity when Google can map your search requests to your email address.
- Google will be doing content inspection on your email to serve you ads related to what’s in your email.
- Google is just too damn big these days. Both of the items above also apply to Yahoo, but nobody uses Yahoo for search these days so I guess Yahoo seems like less of a threat.
To me, the content inspection problem is not a big one, unless you don’t trust Google. I think the issue is more creepiness than violation. If you send your wife an email asking her what she wants to do for your anniversary, and up pop ads for local restaurants, trips to the Bahamas, or 1-800-Flowers, then that would be a bit odd. At the same time, ISPs that run spam filters are clearly doing content inspection on your email, and when you use webmail, your email is always in somebody else’s hands. I use IMAP so my ISP has sole custody of my email. If they wanted to grep for things or whatever, I certainly couldn’t stop them. This concern seems overblown to me.
The idea of making your search requests less anonymous is a bit more worrisome.