April 13, 2004

Google's GMail - Continued

I posted yesterday about Google's new G-Mail service, which permanently saves all incoming & outgoing messages from it's users, and inserts text-sensitive ads into all of these messages. But there's more news on the Google front today.

  1. Cnet News reports that Google plans to start selling Ad Keywords to the highest bidder, regardless if that word is trademarked. Ad Keywords are the triggers for Google's text-based ads that appear in the Search sidebar. For example, if you search Google for "Contact", you'll see ads for the company 1-800 Contacts. In the past, the company has reserved trademarked Keywords for their respective owners, in a "gentleman's agreement" to the underlying rights. This policy shift will now allow any buyer to purchase any Search word, regardless of trademark.

    Personally, I'm all for defending the rights of Trademark holders, but I can defend Google's position on this. The company has every right to control what a user sees when they enter Google.com. It's not like the ICANN or INTERNIC is opening the floodgates on registering trademarked domain names, we're talking about Google's site, and they have the right to control content on it as they see fit. This new policy is a little cut-throat, as business practices go, but their decisions should be their own. What effect this has on their revenue streams remains to be seen, but I anticipate some serious backlash from high-profile trademark name holders.

  2. Secondly, there is already Legal action pending against Google, even with GMail in the beta stage, citing privacy concerns. Additionally, this article reports that "European groups recently lodged a complaint with UK authorities, charging that Gmail may violate Europe's privacy laws because it stores messages where users cannot permanently delete them. Europe's privacy protection laws give consumers the right to retain control over their communications."

  3. And finally, there's a potentially bad result of GMail's context-sensitive ads. It seems that visitors to an Australian Gambling Addiction Support web site are being subjected to pop-up ads from casinos. Ironic as this may be, it brings up a potentially devastating, if possibly unintentional, outcome of GMail's Ads. If a GMail user often writes to his Alcoholics Anonymous buddies, the last thing he needs to see inserted in his e-mails is an ad for Budweiser. If Google intends to stay the course with this feature, they need to dig in NOW and prepare for some major lawsuits.

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