Why You Should Let Google Spy On You (Sometimes)

Friday, September 27, 2013 - 10:58 AM


Google turned 15 today. The company celebrated by unveiling a new version of their algorithm. Meanwhile, a judge issued a ruling that a class-action suit that against Google's targeted ads can proceed. 

The class-action lawsuit concerns Gmail. When you use Gmail, Google scans your emails for keywords which determine what text ads you'll be served. The lawsuit says that that scanning is a kind of wiretapping.

This seems like a good example of privacy concerns run a bit amok. Gmail's a very useful, putatively free service. Rather than paying Google money, we pay by consenting to be advertised to. We give away a sliver of our privacy to algorithms that can show us diaper ads if our emails are filled with the word "baby.' It's the price of free, and it's not a bad price. Equating that kind of disinterested, impersonal surveillance to a wiretap feels like a misunderstanding of technology. It'll be interesting to see where this lawsuit goes.  


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TLDR is a short podcast and blog about the internet by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. You can subscribe to our podcast here. You can follow our blog here. We’re also on Twitter, and we play Team Fortress 2 more or less constantly, so find us there if you like to communicate via computer games from six years ago.

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