I use Gmail almost every day and it absolutely sucks. There, I said it. It sucks. Like many people I feel like I’ve been drawn into Google’s insidious suite of cloud based wares: Drive, Calendar, Analytics, and of course Gmail.
Last week Google permanently changed the way you write emails in Gmail by ditching aspects of the old UI for good. Users like myself who preferred the old compose window and were perhaps holding out on the update were abruptly switched over to the new UI August 14 th or several days thereafter whether we liked it or not.
Ultimately though, UX design changes, as arbitrary as these seemed, can be tolerated (albeit begrudgingly) when you’ve been using an app for any length of time. Facebook does this all the time and most of us learn to live with the perpetual changes that seem to be rolled out without any rhyme or reason.
But when it comes to the contentious issue of personal privacy, in the wake of the NSA Prism surveillance revelations, Google demonstrate a bewildering lack of concern regarding the integrity of Gmail users’ security. This is clearly expressed in Google’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit alleging Gmail’s message scanning violates California privacy laws. This, under the dubious guise of protecting users from spam while targeted ads are sent directly to your in-box.
John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director, suggests Google’s data handling protocols are tantamount to the Post Office opening and reading the contents of your mail:
“Google’s brief uses a wrong-headed analogy; sending an email is like giving a letter to the Post Office, I expect the Post Office to deliver the letter based on the address written on the envelope. I don’t expect the mail carrier to open my letter and read it. Similarly when I send an email, I expect it to be delivered to the intended recipient with a Gmail account based on the email address; why would I expect its content will be intercepted by Google and read?”
Google’s so-called “free” cloud based apps are in fact not free. We ultimately pay with our personal information which is arguably a far greater cost. In the case of Gmail, Google has gone on record with the rather stunning statement that Gmail users “have no legitimate expectation of privacy” when they use the service. Incredibly this also includes non Gmail users who send emails to Gmail accounts.
“Google has finally admitted they don’t respect privacy,” John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director, said in a statement “People should take them at their word; if you care about your email correspondents’ privacy don’t use Gmail.”