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I'm considering getting a Gmail account. I've always been hesitant about privacy with Google, though, and especially with the new privacy policy (which is hard to understand), I have some questions:

  • How much of the information in my messages does Google save? For example, do they scan the entire text of every email I write (to tailor targeted ads)?
  • In what ways can Google use the information they save? For example, are they allowed to publish the emails I wrote on a blog? What about emails I received?
  • Are there any special circumstances (such as a "court order") which can increase the amount of information from emails Google is allowed to make available to the public?
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3 Answers 3

up vote 17 down vote accepted

Here is a link to the privacy policy.

Now to answer your questions:

How much of the information in my messages does Google save? For example, do they scan the entire text of every email I write (to tailor targeted ads)?

Yes they scan your email to target the ads. But that is not the same thing as having somebody read your email.

In what ways can Google use the information they save? For example, are they allowed to publish the emails I wrote on a blog? What about emails I received?

Your emails are yours, they don't use them for funny blog entries. Or any blog entries for that matter.

Are there any special circumstances (such as a "court order") which can increase the amount of information from emails Google is allowed to make available to the public?

this is a direct quote:

Google only shares personal information with other companies or individuals outside of Google in the following limited circumstances:

  • We have your consent. We require opt-in consent for the sharing of any sensitive personal information.
  • We provide such information to our subsidiaries, affiliated companies or other trusted businesses or persons for the purpose of processing personal information on our behalf. We require that these parties agree to process such information based on our instructions and in compliance with this Privacy Policy and any other appropriate confidentiality and security measures.
  • We have a good faith belief that access, use, preservation or disclosure of such >information is reasonably necessary to (a) satisfy any applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request, (b) enforce applicable Terms of Service, including investigation of potential violations thereof, (c) detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security or technical issues, or (d) protect against harm to the rights, property or safety of Google, its users or the public as required or permitted by law.
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Privacy policy aside, it would be corporate suicide for Google to leak any private e-mail content. There was already a hue-and-cry when Gmail launched because of the context-sensitive ads and the GOOG spent a lot of time ensuring us that they're not reading anyone's mail. –  Al E. Feb 1 '12 at 3:27
    
Well, both of those last two bullet points seem pretty arbitrary and easily subject to abuse. Of course, being a successful corporation, Google will never want to anger its users--but I'm still hesitant with how much leeway they give themselves in information sharing... –  jamaicanworm Feb 1 '12 at 5:11
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Taking a step back from any particular email provider: unless you're using an encrypted solution, you should assume that ANY email message you send can be read by ANY computer that it passes through on the journey between your computer and the recipient's computer.

If you are concerned about privacy, then Google is the least of your worries.

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Indeed. This isn't just about web-based email, either. –  Al E. Aug 17 '12 at 13:09
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Google doesn't share any e-mail content with anyone (blogs, other companies). It can't. It just uses a robot to scan malware, ads, ip_tracer, GIFs or executables. You should better check Google's private policy.

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Well, actually it does. See the latest NSA-related revelations. –  Alex Aug 14 '13 at 14:44
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protected by Community Aug 14 '13 at 14:59

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