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 Meredith Haggerty. You can subscribe to the TLDR podcast here. You can follow our blog here. I tweet @manymanywords and @tldr.

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