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Google's Deep Tracking Inspection -- a privacy nightmare

In one of Google's worst misrepresentations about privacy to date, Google's Head of Product Development for Google Enterprise, Matt Glotzbach, told the FT that Google did not believe that its new gmail feature -- that ranks emails automatically based on what Google's algorithm judges are the most important emails to be read first -- would raise any privacy concerns. "We're not creating any new information, we're leveraging information that is already there."

Unbelievable. This is grossly deceptive and untrue.


  • Google is claiming that new Google-created information analysis with sophisticated conclusions about importance and urgency, is "not creating any new information?"
  • How can Google claim this additional feature as an innovation or as new, if it is not substantially "new information" that Google is providing and using? Their logic is circular.
  • And under what warped sense of privacy does the notion of opening, reading, analyzing, and judging the importance of people's private electronic mail without their permission -- not raise "any privacy concerns!?"


By any measure this is what I would call Google's "Deep Tracking Inspection."


  • If privacy advocates were offended and fearful by the prospect of "Deep Packet Inspection" of Internet traffic by anyone on the Internet, why would they not be offended and fearful if the world's search monopoly, ranked by Privacy International as worst in the world on privacy, were deeply tracking and inspecting without permission senders emails to the recipient with an invasive email ranking program?
  • Think about this. This is about opening and deeply tracking and inspecting incoming emails, mostly from non-gmail users who have not given Google permission to read their confidential emails to judge the importance of their contents.
    • Google is implying that because a gmail user has granted Google permission to track their emails and target them with personalized ads based on the content of their emails, that this feature is kosher because it has permission of the recipient.
    • Unfortunately it is the confidentiality/privacy of the unwitting email sender that Google is invading and violating.


What is another gross misrepresentation here is that Google is implying that Google has no ulterior motive or conflict of interest here with safeguarding people's privacy.


  • At core Google's business model is "Track-to-Target." It is to track most everything users and others do online (see Google's "Total Information Awareness Power" chart) so that it can assemble the most intimate profile of people's hot buttons so they can best influence users for advertisers via personalized ad targeting.


So what is Google hiding here? They claim Google is "not creating any new information" here, but yes they are.


  • What they are creating by analyzing emails from others is learning who the recipient, the "target," views as most important to them and what info they view as most important to them.
  • This is extraordinarily valuable information for Google, especially as it seeks to leverage gmail, Voice, Buzz, Android, Analytics etc. to better compete against Facebook in social networking.
  • What Google researchers explained in a fascinating, not-to-be-missed research presentation on social networking, is the fact that people are not influenced by all of their many "friends," but are most influenced by those closest to them, about 5-10 "strong ties" people.
  • What Google can glean by ranking people's gmail, or voicemails, or their most common movements via Android's track-to-target operating system, is who those most important "influentials" really are!


In sum, it is grossly misleading for Google to downplay and misrepresent what they are really doing when adding features to Google's dominant consumer Internet platform technology, and to hide that they have a huge undisclosed conflict of interest in safeguarding people's privacy here.


  • It will be interesting if the privacy-somnolent FTC and the privacy-catatonic FCC care to investigate the privacy implications of Google's highly deceptive pervasive invasion of people's privacy.
  • This is the type of consumer privacy harm that makes the concept of a "Do Not Track list" modeled after the FTC's Do Not Call list so wildly popular (79%) with Americans.