[Politech] Weekly column: Be careful about using Gmail, but don't ban it [priv]

From: Declan McCullagh (declan@private)
Date: Tue Apr 13 2004 - 08:29:20 PDT

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    Is Google the future of e-mail?
    April 12, 2004, 4:00 AM PT
    By Declan McCullagh
    Google is hoping to convince us to use its forthcoming Gmail service for 
    our lifetime e-mail needs.
    Once signed up to the Gmail system, every user gets a gigabyte of free 
    Web-based e-mail storage. That's about 100 times the number of bits 
    Microsoft's Hotmail accounts can hold.
    It's a generous offer. But should we take Google up on it?
    Right now, people who use Web-based e-mail can't squeeze that much in 
    the cramped 4 megabytes or so that Google's competitors offer their 
    nonpaying subscribers. What that means is that the impact of a security 
    breach or privacy incident is sharply limited; your entire online life 
    wouldn't be on public display in the case of one. With Gmail, on the 
    other hand, you might have 20 years' worth of correspondence protected 
    only by the thin shield of a password.
    My concern is not about Google's management, who have been upstanding 
    corporate citizens. They've maintained a firewall between advertising 
    and search results, and have resisted the temptation to follow Yahoo's 
    "paid inclusion" lead. Google has stood up to censorship and, in 
    general, has alerted its readers when it's legally required to yank 
    sites from its index.
    Still, there are good reasons to be leery of Gmail, which requires you 
    to trust the security of a computer system over which you have no 
    control. If you keep your correspondence on your home computer, you can 
    encrypt your old e-mail or squirrel it away on CD-ROMs that won't be 
    accessible to a malicious hacker. That won't work, if everything's online.
    [...remainder snipped...]
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