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Google Businesses The Internet Privacy United States

California Senate Passes Preemptive Strike Against Gmail 540

Posted by michael
from the mail-bomb dept.
Technically Inept writes "The California Senate has passed a measure to force Google to limit search capabilities on Gmail to real-time, with no records. What if I want them to search my mail in advance?"
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California Senate Passes Preemptive Strike Against Gmail

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  • by Uriel (16311) * on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:32PM (#9280527)
    We're legislating technology most people haven't even seen yet.
    • by Incoherent07 (695470) on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:37PM (#9280588)
      That's the trick... all of the hoopla about Gmail's ads, and they're no different from the ads you see when you search Google normally.

      California Legislature: "OMG Google knows I'm searching for pr0n, I'd better pass a law against it!"
      • by the_mad_poster (640772) <shattoc@adelphia.com> on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:53PM (#9280763) Homepage Journal

        I don't understand what the big deal is regardless. I mean, if you're sending plain text e-mails, they're going through multiple third parties anyway. If any of them wanted to keep and read your e-mail, nothing is stopping them now except encryption. What's different about Google other than they explicitly tell you they're going to do it.

        I'm all for privacy, but all this hoopla just sounds like a bunch of techno-losers who have absolutely no idea what they're talking about, but think it's a good "issue" to start screaming at the top of their lungs on.

        • by Yokaze (70883) on Friday May 28, 2004 @05:42PM (#9281169)
          > What's different about Google other than they explicitly tell you they're going to do it.

          The difference is, that Google and other free email services have a commercial interest in it, while said third parties, with all probability, have not.

          Creating the infrastructure to scan emails requires an investment, which has to pay off.

          Those third parties are providing the bandwith for several parties. I assume that most companies wouldn't be very happy about having their connection tapped. So, not scanning any traffic is in their own commercial interest.

          The legal implications by having the ability to scan emails and/or traffic are another reason they have no interest.

          OTOH, Google (and others) can easily use that profiled data to generate revenue by targeting ads on pages they generate. Said third parties have no such mean.

          Google and others are merely prohibited from profiling. They can still generate revenue from targeting ads by real-time data, like they do with their search-engine.

          • by AKnightCowboy (608632) on Friday May 28, 2004 @05:46PM (#9281205)
            The difference is, that Google and other free email services have a commercial interest in it, while said third parties, with all probability, have not.

            Nobody HAS to use GMail so what is the real problem here? Don't send mail to people with gmail.com accounts if you don't want it archived and scanned. Duh.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 28, 2004 @05:48PM (#9281222)
          I think the problem lies in that Google will be scanning users email, and that includes email sent to them not just by them?

          And so, with my choice to not use Google email but the need to send a message to someone who does use Google email that means I don't have a choice whether or not my message is scanned by Google before it reaches the intended recipient.

          It's like, any letter you write to your aunt in Town X is read before they deliver it. My aunt may not mind her mail being read, but I do, and so by her choice of no privacy I have no other choice but to not write to her if I want my message to be private.

          It's a moot point, as far as I'm concerned. But I do understand the concern. There's no consent from those sending to a google email that their message is to be read by any one or any thing other than the intended recipient.
          • by peg0cjs (572593) on Friday May 28, 2004 @06:33PM (#9281628) Homepage

            And so, with my choice to not use Google email but the need to send a message to someone who does use Google email that means I don't have a choice whether or not my message is scanned by Google before it reaches the intended recipient.

            If you are sending e-mail, assume it is read by a dozen people between you and the recipient. Why do so many people assume that cuz there's no paper trail, there's absolute privacy? Have we learned nothing about technology around here? E-mail is not private, has never been private, will never be private.

            It's _VERY_ different from a letter to your aunt that is sealed in an envelope and is strictly private. In fact, it's a federal offense to open said letter if you aren't the authorized recipient. Your letter analogy only applies to encrypted e-mail communication, which is used, I'm guessing, less than 10% of the time.

            • by stephanruby (542433) on Friday May 28, 2004 @08:57PM (#9282480)
              It's _VERY_ different from a letter to your aunt that is sealed in an envelope and is strictly private. In fact, it's a federal offense to open said letter if you aren't the authorized recipient. Your letter analogy only applies to encrypted e-mail communication, which is used, I'm guessing, less than 10% of the time.

              And yet, the aunt in question still has the right to show your letter to someone else, scan it and publish it on the internet, ask someone else to open it for her, etc.

              In other words, the sender still has no control over the letter once he has sent it to the recipient. The responsibility falls on the recipient to do what she wants with the letter. And it seems to me, people are trying to control something they never had the control of in the first place.

    • by HDlife (714246) on Friday May 28, 2004 @05:50PM (#9281238)
      OK, I was pissed too...so I sought out the source. Here is Senator Figueroa's argument [ca.gov]

      Read more than the intro paragraph (it is BS), the detailed analysis is quite interesting. The big argument is that even though the Gmail account holder agreed to have their email profiled, the other party(ies) did not.

      "
      Google could in just a few years be sitting on the richest direct marketing database in the world. It is impossible to imagine, outside of the world of science fiction, a more intimate source of direct marketing information.

      "[...]With respect to Google's current expressions of good intent, what history teaches is, if there is personal information available, someone will want to use it for marketing. "

      Now one has to think! If MS tried this, we would cry foul. But Google is one of the good guys...but guess what, they are going public! In a few years, they might be owned by Bill Gates, The Home Shopping Network, or the Direct Marketing Association.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Yeah I'd like to see Google profile my GPG-protected mail. Hello, sheeple, email is not confidential! Never has been. Don't email what you wouldn't be happy to send on a postcard.
      • "The big argument is that even though the Gmail account holder agreed to have their email profiled, the other party(ies) did not."

        Sure they did. They consented to let me use it when they emailed it to me, and I consented to let Google scan it for keywords (which is a tad bit different from 'profiling', she obviously has no understanding of the technology) so they could determine which ads to give me (as opposed to trying to sell me generic ads than I will never click on).

        "'[...]With respect to Google's

  • In other news (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    In other news Google announced it was moving out of California to get away from the usual knee-jerk legislation that plagues the state.

    Seriously, what's wrong with these people?
    • It's not knee jerk.. I kind of understand it.

      The lawmakers are concerned about logging in to Gmail from a public area because someone around them may see the ads for 'cheap hooker now' and 'discount for bulk viagara purchase' ads generated after Gmail scans their archived e-mail.
  • by DaHat (247651) on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:32PM (#9280536) Homepage
    Perhaps now we'll see Google move their operations and offices to India.
  • But we can sign away rights so they can do two versions?

    At least for us booring nerds that are mainly interested in hiding how booring we are? :-)

  • by Skyshadow (508) * on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:33PM (#9280547) Homepage
    Good 'ol stupid California*.

    It seems to me that companies ought to have a right to exchange services with people on terms that both sides agree on. If Google wants to offer a gig of email in exchange for being able to stick context-oriented ads in it, they ought to be able to do so -- if you don't like it, buy your own damn email.

    Hell, if Google wanted to offer me a gig of email in exchange for being able to read my messages, print out the embaressing ones and pass them around their offices, they should be able to do that, too. If I don't like it, I don't have to sign up.

    But no, here in CA we never met a regulation or inhabition to business that we didn't like. God forbid the legislature not spend yet more time not fixing our insane budget problems.

    * - Don't kid yourself. We still beat the hell out of your crappy state/country.

    • by savagedome (742194) on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:38PM (#9280607)
      I completely agree. And for the paranoid, remember, that regular email is like sending postcard. Anybody on the route to destination can read it. If you don't want people reading/searching/printing your email, you should encrypt it. Period.

      How many times do we need to say this? Jeez
    • It seems to me that this law will be struck down. Isn't Gmail in the federal regulatory domain, or shouldn't it be?

      Even if you ignore the goodness or badness of the restrictions this California resolution imposesit's a big problem. Trying to program to obey 51 different groups of technical ignoramuses has to be hell.
    • by drmike0099 (625308) on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:41PM (#9280650)
      Schwarzenegger said it, and now I'm starting to believe it, that our full-time legislature simply has too much free time on its hands and is passing all sorts of silly laws (I think that's almost a direct quote). It's mind-boggling to me that they would waste my tax money to pay for them looking at this sort of useless crap, but they can't be bothered to look at other stuff that is actually important (education, environment, etc).
      • The important issues are much larger and more complex than the little ones like email. That makes them difficult to solve. More importantly, any attempt to solve a huge issue like the budget is going to piss off a big group of voters. The way we have organized the system, pissing off any significant group of voters is political suicide. So what we get are state legislatures like Louisiana that ban low rise pants. The important stuff is ignored at all of our expense.

        -B
    • Not to argue with extremes, but I could sell crack and make quite a profit. The government says I can't do so. There *are* limits to what everyone will accept.

      Just a point. Though I have a gmail account, and love it, and think it's ridiculous that CA would pass a law against it.
    • by six11 (579) <johnsogg@c m u . edu> on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:43PM (#9280668) Homepage
      Just one of my many ideas on how to make government better: affix a time limit on every law. When the time limit is up, they have to vote on it again, and it has to pass with a larger percentage than it did the first time. Not only would this cull out silly knee-jerk laws like Patriot or this Google nonsense, it would also force lawmakers to deal with their mistakes by repealing laws, rather than spending time fucking things up for everybody else and increasing the number of laws on the books.

      Re California: If Cally is so cool, why are you all migrating to Colorado?
    • No kidding (Score:5, Insightful)

      by billybob (18401) on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:46PM (#9280694)
      This is pretty much what I've been saying.

      Google's a good company. They've never done anything that has raised my eyebrows before in terms of violating someone's privacy, or anything really. It's not like humans are going to scan your emails and decide what ads to put next to them. (Side note: the article was misleading in that it said gmail would place ads IN your email. Pure FUD. They're NEXT TO your email, which is way different). The whole system is automated, just like their AdSense program. It figures out what ads to display based ont he content of the web page.

      The only argument that I've heard that makes any sense is if someone is against Gmail beacuse of this ad thing, so they dont sign up for the service, but then all their friends do so when they send email tot hem, their emails are scanned for content, even though they're not signed up with the service. Seriously though who cares. Google's not going to do anything like sell your email content to third party's so they can email your ads and stuff. People need to stop getting their panties all in a knot.
      • Re:No kidding (Score:5, Interesting)

        by JofCoRe (315438) on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:56PM (#9280790) Journal
        The only argument that I've heard that makes any sense is if someone is against Gmail beacuse of this ad thing, so they dont sign up for the service, but then all their friends do so when they send email tot hem, their emails are scanned for content, even though they're not signed up with the service.

        Hmm, messages scanned for content by the receiving mail server... nothing at all like these MailScanner [mailscanner.info] and SpamAssassin [spamassassin.org] packages that we have installed on our mailservers, that scan every piece of received mail for content. :)

        (and we don't even tell the sender that we're "reading" their mail!)
      • Just picture it.

        Email body:
        I have sad news--your mother just choked to death on a ham bone. My condolences on this time of terrible tragedy.
        Google ad:
        Hickory Farms Hams
        Try our super premium HoneyGold Ham
        or one of our other delicious hams!
        www.hickoryfarms.com
  • I don't see... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by xenostar (746407)
    ...how what a company does with its website users has anything to do with the California state law.
    • Re:I don't see... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by DaHat (247651)
      Because they are based in California and are ultimately bound by the laws of that state.

      Even if that weren't the case, it wouldn't be the first time that a law body as tried to regulate something outside of its jurisdiction.
  • Little overkill (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zinic (780666) on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:34PM (#9280558)
    Google has yet to actually give us even the slightest notion that they would use Gmail in ways that would invade privacy. This is simply an act, I believe, by worried politicians that something good might dominate the Internet and threaten their pockets.
  • by th1ckasabr1ck (752151) on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:35PM (#9280560)
    If you don't agree to their terms, then don't sign up.
    • The reason (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tacokill (531275)
      The reasoning behind it was simple: while YOU (the gmail acct owner) may not have a problem with Gmail scanning your e-mails, *I* (the sender of e-mails to you) might.

      I'm not saying I agree with it, rather, I am just pointing out why they did it.
  • by Jim Starx (752545) <JStarxNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:35PM (#9280561)
    Can the government restrict what type of information a company collects on its customers when they volentarily opt in to it, especially when thats kinda the point of the service?
  • Initial thoutghts. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vicviper (140480) on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:35PM (#9280564)
    Time for google to move out of Cali.

    Is this law necessary if they disclose such practices? Isn't it up to the consumer not to use the product?

    Time for google not to offer gmail in cali.

    Just knee-jerk thoughts after reading the article.
  • by jrockway (229604) * <jon-nospam@jrock.us> on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:36PM (#9280574) Homepage Journal
    Google should just say that it's illegal to use their service in California. Eventually enough angry Californians will complain, and the law will go away.

    But what's the point of a law? Nobody is forcing you to use gmail. If you're worried about privacy, don't use gmail. Use Hotmail, Yahoo!, Hushmail, .Mac, your ISP, your own server, etc, etc. It's called a free market...
  • by metalhed77 (250273) <andrewvc@gm a i l . com> on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:36PM (#9280575) Homepage
    IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT DON'T USE IT.

    This isn't an OS, it's email. I'll start to worry the day google implements GMTP (google mail transport protocol) until then, as a californian, I call our state govt. a steaming pile of shit.
  • by overbyj (696078) on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:36PM (#9280580)
    search the brains of the geniuses who are pushing this bill through. I sure would like to know what they think they are accomplishing by limiting something not widely available and something that people have to opt-in to.
  • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:36PM (#9280584) Homepage Journal

    What if I want them to search my mail in advance?

    Contact the NSA [nsa.gov] and ask for "Mr. Echelon".
  • by GreyyGuy (91753) on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:37PM (#9280585)
    The bill, as I've read in other articles is agaisnt any service retaining information about the contents of people's emails. They can still scan it realtime and give ads based on keywords, but they can't store it in a database or share that information with other people.

    It is a good thing, in my opinion, because you know as soon as Google announced they were going to do it and let people know about it, hundreds of others figured it would be a good idea to do it and not say anything and then sell email information to advertisers.

    And Google approved the legistation as well. It is *NOT* a Bad Thing.
    • by Skyshadow (508) * on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:53PM (#9280758) Homepage
      There's nothing wrong with forcing a company to disclose what they're going to do. There's nothing wrong with forcing them to put it in simple language, nothing wrong with forcing them to point out other options.

      It *is* wrong, however, to force a company to abide by certain terms in regards to totally legal activities.

      Let's say that AT&T came out with a new cell plan tomorrow: You can call anyplace with your phone for as long as you want anytime for free. Beforehand, though, you have to listen to an ad for some company and press in a code they mention to prove you listened to the ad.

      Should I have the right to sign up for this service? Of course I should -- I'm bartering my time and attention rather than my money, but it's a fair (and legal) trade.

      What if AT&T offered the same deal, except that they wanted to be able to listen in on my call if they wanted to. Should I still have the right to sign up? Should I still have the right to decide if I'd rather spend $40 a month on my phone or give up my privacy?

      I mean, I'm an adult. WTF does the government get off making these decisions for me, esp. when the people making the laws are a bunch of idiots to begin with?

      • by Turtlewind (781809) on Friday May 28, 2004 @05:24PM (#9281035)
        It *is* wrong, however, to force a company to abide by certain terms in regards to totally legal activities.

        I agree with the point you were making, but this line is pure nonsense. Forcing people (or companies) not to do certain activities that were formerly totally legal is the whole point of making laws. When laws against (say) monopolistic practices were proposed, they were also restricting totally legal activities.
      • by YouHaveSnail (202852) on Friday May 28, 2004 @05:24PM (#9281036)
        And what if that new cellular service became so profitable that all the other cellular service providers also adopted that as their only business model? How would you like it if you never had to pay for a call again, but you couldn't find a provider who offered ad-free service, or who promised not to listen in on your calls? After all, if 90% of the market loves the free service and doesn't care about the privacy issues, who are you to say they shouldn't have it? And who are you to demand that the service providers go out of their way to deal with your antiquated notion of what their service *ought* to be? Presto, you no longer have a right to choose what kind of service you want, because the service you want is no longer available.

        There's a grey area here. The net is infrastructure just like the phone system or the highway system or the mail system. As such, the government (federal government at least, and perhaps the state government too) has not only a right, but also a responsibility to regulate to some degree how it works and what we should be able to expect from it.

        E-mail is one of the most widely used services on the net, even if you toss out all the spam. The general public uses it without necessarily knowing how it works, and there's a widespread presumption that even if e-mail isn't exactly guaranteed to be private, it's also generally not parsed and analyzed by the service providers. Given that, it seems reasonable for a government to try to protect that expectation.

        I don't know if it'll work or not -- it seems like there's probably plenty of room for a legal challenge. But it also doesn't seem like a huge obstacle, and I can think of a dozen ways to abide by the regulation and still implement exactly the same sort of advertising model that Google is trying to use.
    • by ajs (35943)

      The bill, as I've read in other articles is agaisnt any service retaining information about the contents of people's emails. They can still scan it realtime and give ads based on keywords, but they can't store it in a database or share that information with other people.

      Which is patently absurd.

      Seriously, think about what it means to say, you can't store mail in a database. Ok, so hotmail is illegal in California? They certainly store mail in a database and perform searches against it...

      The interest

  • It reminds me of some union negociation.

    You put pressure on the boss now, making a strike to "prepare the negociations" even if they are not started yet.

    *sigh*

  • Nanny State (Score:3, Insightful)

    by koniosis (657156) <koniosis AT hotmail DOT com> on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:38PM (#9280600)
    Yeah, great, so people can't make their own minds up?!? If you want to have your e-mails scanned, use it, if you don't, then don't use it! Do they really think people are so stupid that they can't make up their minds for themselves!?!

    Give me a break, this is just taking it too far, what next, making it illegal to eat McDonalds because it's bad for you?
  • by khendron (225184) on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:38PM (#9280601) Homepage
    "The bill by Democratic state Sen. Liz Figueroa would require Gmail to work only in real-time and would bar the service from producing records.

    The bill also would bar Gmail form collecting personal information from e-mails and giving any information to third parties. "


    Doesn't Google state that GMail already works this way? So in effect they are legislating it to do only what it already does. Unless Google turns evil and wants to invade our privacy, they won't mind at all.
  • When I was able to get a GMail account, I knew full well that they would do this (the ads). I'm fine with that.

    It's not like having a GMail account is a right or anything; If you don't want the ads, don't use GMail. Simple.
  • by treerex (743007) on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:39PM (#9280618) Homepage
    GMail is John Ashcroft and John Poindexter's wet dream: billions of messages nicely indexed and ready for mining.

    Fortunately experience shows that Google doesn't much care to help the USG.
  • by marderj (725013) * on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:39PM (#9280622)
    Where the hell does the Senate get off telling Google how to run their email service? This doesn't seem right. Not that I want Google harvesting my email for personal information they can use as they please, but it just doesn't seem like its the government's place to make that decision. This is something that should be decided in the free market. Don't like the terms of service? Then don't f-ing sign up. Anyways last time I checked, the Hotmail terms of service basically said that anything you send through Hotmail belongs to them. I'm sure there are similar provisions in the TOS for the others too. The article was a little light on details. Does this single out Google or does it apply to other providers as well?
  • That would make it faster them my computer.
  • I'm glad (Score:5, Funny)

    by thebra (707939) * on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:40PM (#9280625) Homepage Journal
    that they are going after google now that they have put a stop to SPAM , adware and spyware. The web will now be a safer place.
  • It's called a "plaintext protocol"....
  • Someone help me here, I'm too lazy to look it up. Wouldn't this bill have to be signed by Gov. Ahhh-noold? He's probably looking forward to giving this joke a good, swift kick in the pants, unless he needs to buy off some members to get what he needs to fix the budget...
    • Two things still have to happen:
      1. It has to pass the Assembly
      2. It has to be signed by the Governator.
      Lots of Weird Crap gets through one house and then dies. If Google doesn't have enough cash to buy^H^H^H lobby a sufficient number of Assembly Members to block this, they're in way worse financial straits than everyone thinks.
  • As many have mentioned, nobody is forcing anyone (including Californians) to use GMail.

    If you live in California, I advise you to write the bill's sponsor, Liz Figueroa [ca.gov] and ask her to find something better to do with her time and your tax dollars. In case her page is Slashdotted you can always send her an email. [mailto]
  • Missing the point (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AntigonusPiglet (744432) on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:48PM (#9280720)
    Many people commenting on this issue say "If you don't want Google to read your mail, don't sign up." That assumes that the only person who has a potential privacy issue is the recipient of the e-mail. My problem is on the other end: when I SEND someone e-mail I don't want someone else to read it. Why should I compromise my privacy so you can get a bigger mailbox?
    • by DoorFrame (22108) on Friday May 28, 2004 @05:20PM (#9281002) Homepage
      Well, but aren't you doing this already? I mean, lets say you send me an email. You've got absolutely NO way to know that I don't simply take what you sent me and archive it for later use, or take what you sent me and post it immediately on usenet somewhere. Once you've sent the email it's out of your hands and you need to trust that the person you've sent it to, and the organization they're getting their service from is a good one. If you know that the recipient or the service is faulyt, and you're unwilling to send them email, just let them know and don't send them anything until they change.

      If you're so concerned about your privacy that you're worried about what your recipient is going to do with his/her email, it might be time for you to start making phone calls.
  • What!? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Neurotoxic666 (679255) <neurotoxic666@NosPaM.hotmail.com> on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:51PM (#9280741) Homepage
    First, those who voted for that bill most probably can't even turn on a damn computer. Let alone use an email service. The story should end right here. But these technophobic fuckers actualy have some power over what Google can do.

    Google is a private company and they offer a free -- FREE -- service to users who agree to some terms and conditions of use. These users will most likely be very happy to use this service.

    Now can anyone tell me why should the govt even consider thinking about voting anything concerning Gmail!?

    No one is FORCED to use it. It's not like a Govt agency decides to send you spam based on your credit report and your annual income... Google is private and the users are free to use it or not.

    I'm sorry, but I just don't get it. I can't. Nothing justifies the intervention of the government in a free, web-based service. Nothing at all. Google does not hide anything and is not violating any law.

    The only basis for the vote is that "Google is huge", or something like that. It's just one step away from voting a bill against, say, an automotive email newsletter that contains car ads; or any other free service on the web for that matter.

    They just should not have any jurisdiction over the internet... Just screw them. Or better yet: patent the bill and sue them for copyright infringement. I just can't believe those daily stupidities....
    • Re:What!? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by evilviper (135110) on Friday May 28, 2004 @05:22PM (#9281014) Journal
      Playing devil's advocate here:

      Now can anyone tell me why should the govt even consider thinking about voting anything concerning General Motors!?

      No one is FORCED to use their cars. General motors is private and the users are free to use it or not.


      Hopefully you can see from the example above that regulation is legitimate. With any product or service, people should be able to assume that it meets certain base requirements. That most definately includes a reasonable level of privacy.
      • Re:What!? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by KarmaMB84 (743001)
        You can kill yourself, your passengers and other motorists with a General Motors product. Gmail will probably not kill anyone.
  • Per-company laws??? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dynamo (6127) on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:52PM (#9280745) Journal
    I didn't think it was legal to single out particular companies for laws to apply to.. it shouldn't be, at least.
  • by Improv (2467) <pgunn@dachte.org> on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:52PM (#9280749) Homepage Journal
    Playing devil's advocate here, at least partly.. why/when, in general, is government intervention worthwhile in certain contracts? From a libertarian POV, probably never, or almost never (e.g. preventing certain types of abuses, e.g. slavery). From a liberal point of view, there are some types of contracts that are so naturally one-sided, e.g. landlord-tenant relations, that in order to prevent one side from being excessively harmed by the concentration of power on the other side, the government has seen fit to legislate. One necessary (but not sufficient) component of these types of deals is that the services offered are sufficiently necessary and scarce that it is difficult to live life without them. Another is that there exists a pattern of abuse by one side. It is left as an exercise to the reader to judge this means of thinking about things, and decide what the exact criteria should be for when and what intervention is proper.
  • lobby (Score:3, Funny)

    by twistedcubic (577194) on Friday May 28, 2004 @04:55PM (#9280786)
    Oops! I guess someone forgot to tell Google that they should begin making political contributions before announcing the IPO. A good hundred thou should take care of this pesky law.
  • by Seth Cohn (24111) on Friday May 28, 2004 @05:03PM (#9280851)
    it's all about control for them. What they stop? Who did they help? Who did they 'protect'? Google will spend time and energy fighting this, or have to work around it, and nobody benefits except the lawmakers who claim they 'did the right thing'.

    Yeah, just like CANSPAM stopped spam. (it didn't)

    Are you tired of government doing things like this? Me too.

    That's why I've join the Free State Project [freestateproject.org]. Imagine 20K liberty minded people all standing up for freedom, willing to be politcally active, and using technology and common sense to achieve a free society. We'll advocate for the end of victimless crime laws (no more drug laws, sex laws, nanny laws), allow privacy tools like encryption, and reduce the size government down to as small as we can make it, lowering taxes, and always respect the rights of those around us. Are you even mildly libertarian? Do you believe that this country is becoming more and more about 'You aren't allowed unless the state says so?' Join us, and help achieve liberty in your lifetime.
  • by The Pim (140414) on Friday May 28, 2004 @05:25PM (#9281043)
    This summary made no sense to me. What the hell is a record? I searched around and found Senator Figueroa's page about the bill [ca.gov], which rambles all over the map before finishing with the proposal prohibiting "scrutinizing of e-mail messages ... for direct marketing" without the consent of both sender and recipient. Not only would this knock Gmail flat, it depends upon the absurd claim (supported by some specious reasoning above) that merely being shown a targeted ad is a privacy violation.

    However, this apparently describes an earlier draft, because this somewhat better article [siliconvalley.com] says the bill is about amassing personal information (ie, keeping email that's been deleted) and sharing it with third parties. Which are much more legitimate concerns, but have nothing to do with the targeted ad and search features of Gmail.

    So what's the real story? It almost sounds like the revised bill is just a cover for Senator Figueroa's embarrassing early draft.

  • No Indexes? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JSBiff (87824) on Friday May 28, 2004 @05:33PM (#9281106) Journal
    I'm not exactly sure, but it sounds like this law, the way it's being stated, would prohibit Google from creating the full-text indexes that are *absolutely necessary* to do fast searches. The *point* of GMail is to have email with the power of google. If I'm gonna be doing searches without any indexes, I might as well stick with my Mozilla Mail client getting mail by POP3 - I already have well over 1Gig of free space on my HD to store mail, and Mozilla has some mail searching capabilities built in.

    The only reason GMail is appealing is that I can apply the power of Google (which is built on indexing content) to my mail. *sigh*
  • by kiddailey (165202) on Friday May 28, 2004 @05:40PM (#9281147) Homepage

    All of this extreme anti-Google privacy concern crap is so suspicious.

    Of all things to be concerned about in regards to privacy, a free, web-based email service seems hardly enough to even loose any sleep over. I can think of a TON of other privacy concerns that would and should come miles before a GMail account.

    Which leads me to believe that there's more going on here than we know and realize. Specifically, at least two well-known companies with a lot^H^H^H^H^H^H^H ENORMOUS lobbying power would have reason to want Google's GMail to fail -- Hotmail, Yahoo. And we all know what kind of anti-competitive tactics one of those is known for.

    All of this blatant extremist attitude towards GMail could stem from these facts. Since I'm wearing my hat, I'd wager that it probably does.

    In any regard, if I was a California citizen, I would be e-mailing these so-called representatives and inform them that they would not be receiving my vote next election and that I would be spreading the word to my friends, neighbors and family.
  • by IanDanforth (753892) on Friday May 28, 2004 @05:41PM (#9281165)
    The State Senator who authored this Bill is Liz Figueroa (D). While she has long be a defender of privacy, she isn't really up on her facts as you can decern for yourself. A summary of her bill, you can find here:

    http://democrats.sen.ca.gov/senator/figueroa/

    (Type "gmail" into the search box")

    She also has a convenient Feeback option which you can use to educate her, or share your thoughts.

    Luckily amendments to the bill bring it into line with what Google was going to do anyway.

    -Ian Danforth

  • by z4ce (67861) on Friday May 28, 2004 @05:43PM (#9281181)
    Here is the text from the actual bill SB 1801 [ca.gov]:

    BILL NUMBER: SB 1822 AMENDED
    BILL TEXT

    AMENDED IN SENATE APRIL 20, 2004

    INTRODUCED BY Senator Figueroa

    FEBRUARY 20, 2004

    An act to add Section 1798.87 to Title
    1.81.15 (commencing with Section 1798.88) to Part 4 of Division 3 of
    the Civil Code, relating to privacy.

    LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST

    SB 1822, as amended, Figueroa. Privacy: social security
    numbers: sales online communications .
    Existing law protects the privacy of personal information,
    including customer records and social security numbers. Existing law
    prohibits a person or entity located in California from initiating
    or advertising in unsolicited commercial e-mail advertisements, as
    defined, and prohibits a person or entity not located in California
    from initiating or advertising in unsolicited commercial e-mail
    advertisements sent to a California e-mail address.
    This bill would prohibit a provider of e-mail or instant messaging
    services, as defined, that serves California customers, from
    reviewing or evaluating the content of a customer's e-mail or instant
    messages, except as specified. The bill would permit a provider of
    e-mail or instant messaging services to review and evaluate the
    content of a customer's outgoing e-mail or instant messages with the
    customer's consent, and would permit a provider to review and
    evaluate the content of incoming e-mail or instant messages only from
    another subscriber to the same service and only when that subscriber
    has consented to the procedure.
    Existing law prohibits a person or entity, except as specified,
    from publicly posting or displaying an individual's social security
    number, and from printing that social security number on a card
    required for the individual to access products or services.
    This bill would provide that a person or entity that sells a
    social security number is strictly liable to the person to whom the
    social security number applies for any and all damages that directly
    or indirectly result from the sale. The bill would except specified
    transactions from its provisions.
    Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: no.
    State-mandated local program: no.

    THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

    SECTION 1. Section 1798.87 is added to the Civil Code, to

    SECTION 1. Title 1.81.15 (commencing with Section 1798.88) is
    added to Part 4 of Division 3 of the Civil Code, to read:

    TITLE 1.81.15 PRIVACY OF ONLINE COMMUNICATIONS

    1798.88. For the purpose of this title:
    (a) "Electronic mail" or "e-mail" means an electronic message that
    is sent to an e-mail address and transmitted between two or more
    telecommunications devices, computers, or electronic devices capable
    of receiving electronic messages, whether or not the message is
    converted to hard copy format after receipt or is viewed upon
    transmission or stored for later retrieval. "Electronic mail" or
    "e-mail" includes electronic messages that are transmitted through a
    local, regional, or global computer network.
    (b) "Instant messaging service" means a service that alerts a
    person when another person is online and allows them to communicate
    with each other in current time in private, online areas.
    (c) "Provider of electronic mail or instant messaging service"
    means any person, including an Internet service provider, that is an
    intermediary in sending or receiving electronic mail or instant
    messages or that provides to users of the electronic mail or instant
    messaging service the ability to send or receive electronic mail or
    instant messages.
    (d) "Spam" means an unsolicited commercial e-mail advertisement
  • by hellfire (86129) <deviladv@@@gmail...com> on Friday May 28, 2004 @06:23PM (#9281551) Homepage
    To me the jury is still out on Gmail, because I don't trust any company, Google included, to responsibly use my personal information. Let me play devils advocate for just a second.

    1) This bill according to everything I can see only restricts Google to how it can advertise. It can advertise on demand as emails are brought up, but what it can't do is create a massive indexed database with personal information based on emails I send with which to shell out advertisements to me. Why aren't more people scared to death of a database like that? We bitch and moan about governments creating databases like that, and giving up information to advertisers, why aren't we scared of this?

    2) Everyone here is saying "if you don't like it, don't sign up for it." Great, but what happens when Yahoo, MSN, Hotmail, AOL, etc, start doing it themselves? It makes it a lot more serious, especially if all those guys now have databases with personal information. My nice local ISP doesn't have that problem, but consumers are decent people who just don't have time to learn all this computer shit like everyone else, so they use hotmail. Go easy on them.

    3) Does anyone one have a link to this law... PLEASE? People claim to have "read" this law but I'm too damn lazy to go searching for it when I've never even bothered to go to the California website to check it out. If there's no link here how are people making real comments on it... flamers usually don't usually read this stuff anyway so pardon me if I don't trust the Slashdot crowd ;) All I can go by is this article, for now.

    4) This isn't restricting if Gmail can advertise, just how and what it does with personal information. There are already several laws and practices on the books about personal information. Collecting personal information is a huge boon to any major company because then they can shove ads down your throat, despite what most people truly want. Doing the wrong thing with personal information gets some companies in hot water but a lot of times it creates a huge windfall for that same company.
  • by NMR Dude (783818) on Friday May 28, 2004 @06:41PM (#9281686)
    State Sen. Liz Figueroa:

    Capital Office:
    (916) 445-6671
    Fax (916) 327-2433

    District Office:
    (510) 413-5960
    Fax (510) 413-5965

    E-mail: Senator.Figueroa@sen.ca.gov
  • by Little Brother (122447) <kg4wwn@qsl.net> on Friday May 28, 2004 @07:31PM (#9282018) Journal
    OK, I logged into slashdot, see something about a government branch trying to restrict what a company can do with people's personal data. More specificly trying to restrict how adds can be displayed.

    And the /. crowd is up in arms AGAINST the legislation? Somebody tell me what they put in my water supply.

    • The tin foil hat doesn't defense against things that already were allowed into the geek conscious. Google needs to be kicked out of the geek mind as a good thing before the tin foil will be put up betweeen us and them. Personally, I'm hoping that day never comes.

      Google == Trusted Friend.
      Government == Get more foil.
  • by Danathar (267989) on Friday May 28, 2004 @11:12PM (#9283029) Journal
    It's hilarious watching people pee their pants about a product that MAY NEVER SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY. Did'nt the founders of google say that gmail is being TESTED. It just does not occur to people that they may not ever deploy it in production....for reasons completely different than all the hair pulling that people are doing.

    If we are going to start passing laws against "possible products" why don't we go into the research labs of Microsoft or Orcale or Sun or RedHat or whomever....write down all the things we object to and then pass laws to restrict their development. THEN we'll all be safe and secure! Riiiight

    Wait until it comes out...then bitch and moan, but to do so while it's in development is goofy. Ideas (even bad ones) are routinely batted around inside places like google and other companies. Just because you see them in alpha or beta does not MEAN you are going to see them in the final.

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