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Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Reading an article online about Senator Liz Figueroa objecting to Gmail and considering legislating against it. I couldn't help but write a letter:

I was reading an article online, and read this quote from you saying
about Gmail "it is not customers who want such a program, it is
advertisers."

You are wrong.

A wise person once said "Don't hold strong opinions about things you
don't understand."

I've used Hotmail as my primary mail carrier for the past seven years.
I have switched to Gmail at my first opportunity. Yes, I'm aware of
the targeted advertising. In fact, I really appreciate it. It's much
better than seeing the same ad for mortgage refinancing, or the X10
camera, or Classmates.com, or punch the monkey 80 times a day.
Sometimes the ads help me find exactly what I'm looking for. It's
already happened once. So instead of annoying popup ads full of sound
effects and other nuisances, I get advertising for things that might
actually interest me. But more than that, 99% of the time, I don't
even notice the ads. There's no flashing. There's no doorbell sound
effects. There's not animated gifs of a guy dancing. Just text. I love
it.

And you know what else? I love everything else about Gmail too. I love
that I can type part of an email address in the To: line and it fills
in the rest from my address book automatically. I love that there are
hot keys that allow me to compose messages with one keystroke rather
than having to click a button with my mouse. I love that I can archive
messages and search for them later by keywords. I love that I have 1
gigabyte of free space while Hotmail keeps jacking up the price of
storage every year even though the cost of providing storage has gone
down significantly.

And that brings me to another point. Hotmail sucks. It's been a poor
solution for me for years now, but there's not been anything
significantly better, so I've put up with it. Now there's something
much better out there, and I'm more than willing to make the deal they
ask me to make. Yahoo and Hotmail both ask me for tons of demographic
information up front - what I do for a living, how much money I make,
where I live, etc. Google asks for none of that. I give my name and
they give me an email address, for free. If you want to go after
someone for invasion of privacy, go after Hotmail or Yahoo. Or better
yet, don't go after any of them.

Ultimately, this is a free service that the consumer can choose to use
or not on the provider's terms. I choose to use it, and there's
absolutely no reason why the government should be interested in
legislating that choice. I know that whether Google scans my mail for
content or it just lives on Hotmail's servers and serves me stupid
ads, free email is never ultimately truly private. It lives on someone
else's servers either way. If Google, or Hotmail, or Yahoo, or more
likely, if the government wanted to see my emails, they are accessible
because the data is out there on a machine owned by someone else. I'm
too cheap and too lazy to host my own server and pay for broadband
service to access it from anywhere any time. As a result, I accept the
trade off. And in this case, I'll cheerfully take Google's offer over
Hotmail, because when you're talking about evil empires, I'll happily
have a relationship with Google, but I'll never trust the Kool-Aid
that Microsoft and Hotmail are offering.

/end email to senator

I guess I can't expect a senator to understand the basics of technology and what is and is not a violation of privacy when she can't even keep her own website up. Right now, I get an error saying "Could not connect to JRun Connector Proxy. Please contact the system administrator for this web site." Sigh. Really tempts me to run for office. Maybe that's the calling I've been avoiding. At least I won't need to seriously consider that for another five years or so. No one is going to elect a 30 year old kid. Of course, who am I kidding? Who would ever elect me? I might actually know enough and care enough to do a good job. That and I'm an atheistic polyamorous woman living with my S.O. out of wedlock. Yah. That says electability right there. Sure. Sigh.

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