Are you the only person who doesn’t read your email?

Alastair Aitken 24 March 2014 0

Which planet does Microsoft’s marketing department live on? Planet “Don’t Know What’s Going On”? Microsoft is still running a campaign that taunts Google over the lack of privacy offered by Gmail. That campaign has been shown to be the height of hypocrisy given that Microsoft has unapologetically admitted to reading a journalist’s emails and now is using the content of those emails in legal action. As regards future practices, Microsoft has issued assurances that it will never, ever do it again… unless it really wants to, whenever it chooses. Presumably those promises were made with crossed fingers thereby rendering them meaningless.

Microsoft is not alone; Yahoo, Google and Apple also love reading the emails of all their users, users who almost certainly did not realise that their private lives were of such monetary value and subject to arbitrary scrutiny. Some apologists will jump up and down shouting the weasel-word mantra, “if you aren’t paying then you’re the product”. Not making such practices explicit prior to a user signing up makes them underhand at best.

The NSA/GCHQ surveillance revelations have now so muddied the privacy waters that it would appear that every company can make any accusation that it likes about its rivals. It doesn’t matter how debased those charges might be, the accuser knows they’re true because they’re probably doing it themselves.

Google has admitted that Microsoft’s accusations are true when it stated that users cannot expect privacy when sending emails to Gmail. Even if you’re not a user of Gmail, your private emails are being read. Even if you have studiously avoided sending any emails to accounts, you may still unwittingly be sending emails to Google by virtue of the company making Gmail available for use by non-Google owned domains. This might not matter when operating in less consequential industries or perhaps when discussing idle chit-chat about internet cats but when it comes to financial, legal or medical concerns then that’s really beyond the pale.

Microsoft reads its users’ emails to give it legal leverage but how is Google using (or perhaps misusing) your private data without your consent? It would appear that Google doesn’t want you or anyone else to know. Kind of ironic for a company that started a project to digitally copy millions of books without seeking consent from the books’ authors.

And how about the latest claim that Microsoft is allegedly charging the FBI $50 for a copy of users’ private data? To suggest that Big Tech is out of control is now something of an understatement. Doubtless the industry will be spending millions on lobbyists and astro-turfing in an attempt to both change the law and to divert public debate away from the subject of privacy invasion. Heaven knows how much money it must be paying to help gloss over its connivance with the various state security apparatuses.

I know that Microsoft, Google, Apple et al are money-making concerns but the “a company’s only responsibility is to make a profit” defence for amoral, or perhaps immoral, practices does not wash.

Alastair Aitken (124 Posts)

As a contract developer and manager I’ve worked in a wide range of enterprises in a variety of countries where I’ve encountered everything from great work, awful work, bizarre work, all the way down to quasi-legal work. If you think that you recognise your own organisation within my articles then you’re undoubtedly wrong, where you work isn’t that unique.

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