Strong Bad Gmail?


Google's new Gmail service has come under heavy fire from privacy advocates, with one group having recently filed a complaint [PDF] with EU privacy regulators.
My friend Tim Lee has penned a defense of Gmail for Cato, and sometime Reason contributor Declan McCullagh has a piece up today at CNET's Most interesting quotation from the latter:

"EPIC claims to be protechnology, but fundamentally, they want to dictate uses of technology and prevent successful commerce among consenting adults," says Jim Harper, a privacy advocate who runs "E-mail scanning of various types has been going on for years. It suddenly became a 'privacy' concern, when it became used (for) commercial purposes (by) Google. I think that shows that those activists are anticommerce, not proprivacy."

Update: Mat Honan sounds a similar note over at Salon.

NEXT: Pass the Peace Pipe

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Did I just hear a Strongbad reference?

  2. These people are idiots. Email companies scan your email all the time. They brag about how their scanning is better than the competition. What is this dreaded email scanning that goes on in my Yahoo account as we speak? Spam filtering. The spam filter reads every message and decided whether or not “V1 AGRA” or “Hot wet asian teens” is spam or real email.

    I’m less concerned about scanning my emails than the fact that the email sits on their servers and can be subpoened by the feds. Of course, Hotmail and Yahoo likely won’t be egging on privacy advocates for that.

    I want my gmail dammit and you damn privacy advocates better not screw it up. It’s my choice, so let me make it.

  3. California state senator Liz Figueroa has introduced a bill which would ban Gmail — and incidentally put restrictions on spam filtering which would make compliance technologically impossible, since it would require filters to take external knowledge into account.

    A very telling quote from Figueroa: “They will be scanning your private e-mail. You may say that’s fine and dandy, but I may not like it.”

  4. “It suddenly became a ‘privacy’ concern, when it became used (for) commercial purposes (by) Google.”

    These sorts of parentheticals often confound me when I see them in quotations cited in news articles. For instance, in this case, what are the “for” and the “by” replacing? Or what gaps are they filling?

    Did the guy actually say:

    “It suddenly became a privacy concern, when it became used commercial purposes Google.”


    I mean, what else could it have been that necessitated the parenthetical assist by the writer?

  5. I wonder what scanning is. Maybe the machine thinks about something while it does it, and that’s the problem. I assume that we’re not talking about poetry. THIS is the FORest priMEval the MURmuring PINES and the HEMlocks. That would be dactyls mostly. Hardly anyone sends you poetry.

  6. Here’ some advice. If your worried about your privacy. DON”T SIGN UP FOR THE F*****G SERVICE!

  7. garym,

    To be fair, she may have meant that even though the person with the GMail account doesn’t care, the sender might care.

    She’s still wrong about a reasonable expectation of privacy being violated, but it’s a different point.

  8. Sam:
    Oh, people are a little lazy about their prepositions in phone conversations. He might’ve said something like: “used to commercial purposes at Google” or some such thing that doesn’t necessarily sound weird when you say it but would look a little odd in print.

  9. I appreciate the Homestarrunner reference.

  10. I’ve been a tester for Gmail for about two weeks and I love it. A friend sent me a link to (don’t ask). I went to dogster and registered using my new gmail account. When I received a registration confirmation from dogster, there were no adds in the email. However, when I received a request from a dogster user to, um, add my dog to his, er, corral, it contained, in the margin outside the message area, a couple of “sponsored links,” paid for by dog-related businesses. Frankly, I think that’s kind of cool. It’s called targeted marketing.

    Alas, in the age of Do-Not-Call lists (pardon me while I snort derisively), I’m not one whit surprised by the hubbub over gmail.

  11. Yep, just checked with the handy Hit-n-Run search buddy, and this is indeed the very first reference to Strong Bad. Looks like no mentions of Homestar Runner, ever.

    In the Reason Online world — “We guarantee an obscure pop-culture pun in every headline!” — it is truly a Day For Celebration when Strong Bad makes the scene.

    (Homestar’s world is known as “Free Country, USA,” by the way, and those looking for Free Market Libertarian Fun should open a Cold One and spend the next 17 hours watching the cartoons, making notes, and then filing those notes somewhere.)

    (I did not bother to search for references to other HSR characters such as The Cheat, Coach Z, Strong Sad, Gron Sad, Homsar, Marzipan, Bubs, etc., because it is 6 p.m., known as way past cocktail hour.)

  12. I agree – if you don’t like it just don’t sign up for the damn thing. I know I won’t, because I hate ads, and I have an alternative that doesn’t give me ads.

  13. This is like complaining about the Neilson ratings. Did you know the Neilson people monitor what shows people watch in their own homes? The privacy outrage of it!! Of course, they pay those people to do it, but still. Unbelievable.

  14. OK, somebody explain “strong bad.” I’m probably the most ignorant person in the US about popular culture.

  15. Homestar Runner is an online cartoon with a character named Strong Bad. He writes an e-mail every once in a while. A Strong Bad E-mail. Hence… Strong Bad GMail.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.