Linda G. Hill

Life in progress

Creepy or Convenient? You Decide

78 Comments

I wrote an email to a friend this morning using my gmail account. Just a regular event, nothing special, right? That’s what I thought. And then I hit the send button. A message popped up to let me know that in the body of the email I had written the word “attached,” but that I had not added an attachment to my email. “Are you sure you want to send it?” Google asked.

Two thoughts came to mind in such quick succession that I’m not sure which one I thought first: Oh, isn’t that a handy feature! and What the hell is Google doing reading my email?

I mean seriously, if they’re flagging the word “attached” then what else are they flagging? And who are they sharing it with? If they’re not sharing it with anyone, are they just proving a point? As in, “See? We know what you’re writing. We’re watching you.”

So I decided to read their privacy policy. This is the only thing I could find on the subject of emails:

Our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection.

Hmm…

To say this feature is disconcerting is an understatement. I’ve been thinking about it all day. And I still can’t decide – is it the best thing since sliced bread? Or is this Google’s way of buttering me up while they keep an eye on my private communications?

What do you think?

Author: LindaGHill

There's a writer in here, clawing her way out.

78 thoughts on “Creepy or Convenient? You Decide

  1. Pingback: Creepy or Convenient? Part 2 | Linda G. Hill

  2. I think it’s creepy Linda. There isn’t much privacy left in this world, especially on the WWW πŸ™‚

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  3. It is just not GMail, even other mail clients do it. We use Mozilla Thunderbird for work and that too gives the same message. And Google does scan the email all the time. My friend who was travelling from US to India had forwarded his itinerary because I was picking him up and Google actually told me the time of flight as a reminder. The only solace was that they thought that e-ticket was for me.

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  4. It’s the new equilavent of Microsoft Word version Whatever of Clippy, the animated paper-clip “Office Assistant”:

    “It appears you are writing a letter, let me mess up your format for you!”

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  5. Probably listening to us right now!! 😜

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  6. Welcome to the “cult of Google.” At some point in time we will all be assimilated….resistance is futile.

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  7. My life and correspondence is an open door. I welcome any help I can get. I have had a few of those “reminders” as well. I think the service will really be good when I get the, “hey your fly is unzipped old guy.”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Yeah that’s a good one and I haven’t had that experience about attachments. But something similar a long time ago. I would be sending emails back and forth to a friend and started to notice that the adds I was getting from google were mirroring the topics of my emails. I got really creeped out about that and asked my friend if she noticed it on her end. She is in Australia and has a different system there and did not notice the adds. So I too checked out google and they said a similar thing to me as they did to you… That they have an automated program that reads my emails then provides adds that may be something in which I am interested based on the topic of my email. They assured me that no live person was reading my email, just a machine. πŸ˜‰

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  9. Creepy AF. I hate this kinda stuff!
    In the last month, I’ve looked/shopped for roller skates, curtains, Israeli couscous, and books — you should see what my ads look like, everywhere I go!

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  10. Today, nothing is sacred! In a way, it is like spying and, indeed, creepy. I’ve given up on this technology snooping.

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  11. I seriously hope someone is reading my text messages to my husband. He gets one from me after lunch every day saying one or the other of these: “Dog peed” – “Dog didn’t pee but did poop” – “Dog peed and pooped” – “Dog did nothing.” (So he knows whether he needs to come home from work a little earlier that day.)

    Let them figure out what kind of code that might be!

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  12. I suppose Yahoo does it for their e-mail accounts also. I had a yahoo account and it got all messed up. (Yahoo’s fault) so I ditched it and went with Gmail.

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  13. I despise software that tries to think for me. It’s one of the many reasons I’m glad I never got Windows 10 to work, why I have not (and WILL NOT, dammit) turn on Siri on my phone, and why I use DuckDuckGo as my default search engine. Privacy isn’t as much of a concern as annoyance. Spell checkers are the worst: I had a character named Mary Cecelia, and the damn spell checker had a conniption fit because it swore it should be spelled “Cecilia.” That might be how most people spell it, but not Mary Cecelia. I finally turned the spell check off. I had nuns teach me to spell, the kind that would tell me that misspelled words were nails in the hands of Jesus. I don’t need a word processor that paints my documents with red and green squiggly lines when it thinks I’ve made a mistake, or worse, tries to figure out what word I’m going to type and finishes it for me. Arrrgh! And get off my lawn! XD

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  14. Oh Linda, that is just the tip of the iceberg. I worked in IT for a major retailer and I can assure you that nothing you do on the internet is private. There were programs to scan all e-mails for key words – and those words could be set to anything – so if I wanted to see what people were saying about , say Evelyn in accounting, I could just enter that word and all e-mails containing “Evelyn” would be copied into a secure server for my perusal at my convenience. We could re-route e-mails, monitor usage – the sites visited by any computer – even do screen monitors, where we could secretly sign into a remote and see on our screen everything the user was seeing – either in real time or recorded for later checking. All of this can be done to any computer if you have the desire and the equipment. At the time the program to scan for key words was called Raptor and it was super efficient. We used it to check for a lot of factors – security, theft, threats, or gossip if we wanted. I am sure that programs much more efficient are available today but even then (10 years ago) we could and did manipulate all activity in any way we wanted.

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    • Wow. Just… wow. It’s been a very long time since I last worked in an office – the last time I did, the internet wasn’t available there. I’d be very careful now. Thanks for sharing this, Paul. πŸ™‚

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      • My ex worked at Canada Post’s head office – she’s a Director now – and when she was up and coming on the succession plan (they groomed the chosen few with graduate education, training and mentoring in order to prepare them to take over upper management and executive positions when available) she had a great mentor. I met him and really liked him – very laid back, smart and wise and politically aware while remaining very real and down to earth – and he gave her some advice that she passed along to me and I have lived by ever since. He once said:” Don’t commit anything to the written word unless you are comfortable with it being on the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper. ” And so it is with the internet.

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        • Aha… Yes, so do I, as a matter of fact. I write like everyone who’s ever mattered to me is reading. On my blog at least. Perhaps I should do so in emails as well? πŸ˜›
          Thanks for the advice, Paul. πŸ™‚

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          • Casual is not an issue – it is using words carelessly that causes problems. Robyn Lawson over at Blog Woman!!! http://blog-woman.com/2015/08/23/love-you-miss-you-not-really/ just did a post on how we use words so carelessly and she is right. If you thoughtlessly throw a line like “I’m gonna kill that bitch!” into your e-mail, it will be picked up by key words searches for threats and could cause all sorts of problems. Most think their communication is private – it is not.

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  15. Yup, creepy. This is why I have nothing to do with Google, even their mapping applications. For searches I use DuckDuckGo, they do no tracking and have no sidebar ads. I use Apple’s email account because they promise the same thing.

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  16. I sent my daughter and email, letting her know that we were replacing my car and asking her if she wanted my old car. Within a couple of hours, ads for car dealers in CT were appearing next to and inside (sponsored) my google search results. I have heard that Microsoft is doing the same thing with the email you send and the documents you store on Office 365.

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  17. What is scary is the world we live it! Life doesn’t have the value it once had and hatred is far too common. Privacy is an ideal that is rare. As one man said: a cabin in the woods . . .

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  18. This reminds me of my stalking mobile πŸ˜‚ It says: Twenty minutes to your home. And sometimes it asks me: Are you going home? There’s heavy traffic today.
    I was shocked when I first got the message. I could turn off GPS, but you need it for some apps to work.
    Gmail etc. isn’t free, we’ve given ‘them’ all our personal information in exchange.
    It is scary, but for now, we have little choice…

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  19. E-mail isn’t private communication. It’s putting data on someone else’s equipment. It’s not like mailing a letter, it’s like pinning a note to a coworker on the bulletin board of your office. We are used to no one taking the time to read our e-mails, but there can’t be any expectation of privacy when you are using someone else’s computer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah but… Okay. You’ve got me there. I suppose what’s really important to those of us who are harmless is that they’re not stealing anything, right? ‘Coz they’re not, right? *is scared*

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  20. The way to escape all this creepy invasion of privacy is to build a cabin deep in the woods where no one can find you. There you will live all alone, in complete seclusion. Wait a second, that sounds a bit creepy, too.

    Liked by 3 people

  21. girl, did you really think there’s anything the house doesn’t know when you use their own system? πŸ™‚ i take it for granted that gmail (or others) read/check my emails. i just hope they love reading the content (which is usually high-quality indeed) and appreciate my nudes as well. ahah πŸ™‚

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  22. I find it creepy, but I do also know, that all mail programs are doing this, unless we have our own server and programs.

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  23. My offline email client software (Thunderbird) has been doing that for ages. It usually annoys me because I’m not stupid enough to say I’ve attached something when I haven’t. Sometimes it pleases me because it turns out I am.

    Sadly, there are so many aspects of our on-line experience that, although supremely convenient, are antagonistic to the concept of privacy; however, the very features that are so antagonistic are those that give us the most convenience, so we accept the trade-off. Or we don’t go on-line. Of course, we can, with our email, use only off-line client software, digitally sign and encrypt each email and feel safe, but we must still reveal our private keys to government agencies if required.

    Away from the internet, we all want to use digital mapping, Google Earth and the like to make navigation easier, but resent the fact that the cameras that give us information about others that we find so convenient also give others information about us that we’d rather keep private. We all want the security of knowing that any miscreants are at risk of being spotted on the plethora of CCTV cameras that seem to be multiplying like bacteria, but resent being seen on them ourselves – trade-off again.

    The only problem I can see is that if we, the common folk, ever had any say in the establishment of these regimes, we certainly have no influence over their propagation and use or misuse. The only comfort we can take is that it is we who elect the people who either have control of these things or who have control of the people who have control of these things.

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    • I suppose this means I need to run for office. Haha! Good point, Keith. It really is all about the trade-off. Still scary though.
      Oh, and by the way, my email said something like, “I’m not attached to it,” lest you think I’m stupid enough to say I’ve attached something and then didn’t. πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Slightly off topic but one of my favorites is “this call may be monitored for your convenience.” Gosh, thanks, I was really worried that you wouldn’t be doing adequate “CYA”.

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  25. it’s more or less just a reminder that you have forgotten to actually include the attachment…. that said, it is pretty common knowledge that most everyone’s cell phones are traced unless you turn off the built in GPS manually , calls are scanned for keywords , emails are scanned for keywords , it’s done digitally, no one is actually reading each email, or listening to your phone chats, even skype is monitored , pretty sure to a degree blogs and every other online media forum is digitally scanned as well , phone companies both cellular and land line have to by law turn over your private records at the request of the police or government and they don’t always require a court order or warrant to do so.

    what is creepy to me is the satellites that circle the globe that can take pictures of you so crystal clear that they can tell the denomination of the coins in your hand , now smart televisions actually watch you and can listen in on your private conversations …. the question is who exactly is watching and listening?

    if you happen to mention the country province/state and village/town/city you live in to someone online, they can take a google street map virtual tour of the place you live at… and if they are really determined all they really need is your first and last name and general location…. google street view will take them right to your house. …. what is creepy is we are all under some sort of surveillance 24 hours a day 365 days a year ….and most don’t even know it.

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    • That’s why I avoid mentioning exactly where I live online. There’s certainly a lot to be said for living under the radar… if there is such a thing. Scary indeed. Thanks for commenting, Butch. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  26. I view it no differently than postal workers handling mail. If you’d write a personal message to someone and hand that message to a mail carrier, then it would be fine for email. But what you’re saying could also be applied to phone conversations and text messages.

    That said, I do think it’s creepy. I know that I recently followed a blog that is written in Spanish, and now I get ads in Spanish. This is perhaps the Brave New World that Huxley wrote about.

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  27. It seems anytime you write the word attached in your email and you don’t attach anything it comes up with that question. I ignore it or I then remember to attach what I said I was going to attach….

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  28. creepy. Imagine if it was a phone conversation… Same thing to me.

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  29. It’s creepy AND convenient depending on what you write.

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