If a guy somewhere in Asia makes a blog and no one reads it, does it really exist?

Friday, June 11

Gmail = Big Brother?

The other day, I got an invitation from my father to sign up for Gmail. I made my account, and it looks awesome. The 1-gig storage and nested conversations are totally wicked, the ads are small and unobtrusive.

The privacy issues don't bother me one bit, but I can see how some people might be freaked out. Read this for example.

"After 180 days in the U.S., email messages lose their status as a protected communication under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and become just another database record. This means that a subpoena instead of a warrant is all that's needed to force Google to produce a copy. Other countries may even lack this basic protection, and Google's databases are distributed all over the world. Since the Patriot Act was passed, it's unclear whether this ECPA protection is worth much anymore in the U.S., or whether it even applies to email that originates from non-citizens in other countries. Google's relationships with government officials in all of the dozens of countries where they operate are a mystery, because Google never makes any statements about this."

Hmmmm. Sounds like trouble waiting to happen. What is this "Google's databases are distributed all over the world" business? Something isn't right here. Does this mean, for example, that the Burmese government can force "Google Myanmar" to produce the email correspondence of a suspected seditionist and imprison or execute him based on the found evidence? I got the impression that all the emails are stored in a central Gmail headquarters, deep beneath the Nevada desert and protected by kung-fu guards.

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