Google, G-mail, Google+ and our Privacy

Yesterday, I received a mail from G-mail team in my account about enabling of a feature that will suggest Google+ contacts in G-mail, while composing a mail. Text of that mail is reproduced below verbatim:

——————————————-

Gmail update: Reach more people you know

Ever wanted to email someone you know, but haven’t yet exchanged email addresses? Starting this week, when you’re composing a new email, Gmail will suggest your Google+ connections as recipients, even if you haven’t exchanged email addresses yet.

How it works with email addresses Emailing Google+ connections works a bit differently to protect the privacy of email addresses. Your email address isn’t visible to your Google+ connections until you send them an email, and their email addresses are not visible to you until they respond.

Receiving email from people outside your circles If you receive an email from someone outside your circles, it will be filtered into the Social category of the inbox (if enabled) and only after you respond or add them to your circles, can they start another conversation with you.
How to control who can contact you You’re in control of whether people can reach you with a new setting in Gmail on the desktop. To learn more, check out the Help Center.
The Gmail Team
————————————-
Now, the big questions are – Why will I ever want to send an e-mail to a person from my Google+ account? Is it really required? How I am going to be benefitted from this? Benefitted! No at all. I think so.
In Google+, there are persons that are following me and I don’t know them. Why will I want to send mail to such persons and why such persons should be the part of suggestion list, while composing a mail? If I ever want to contact such a person, I can do so through my Google+ account. To whom I want to send an e-mail, this should be on my sole discretion only and I will send mail only to those who I know reliably (read explicitly).
A good account of reactions on this feature can be found at http://blogs.computerworld.com/cloud-computing/23377/gmail-google-plus-privacy-itbwcw
So, why this feature? This is just a part of large game of online ads. Every online and Internet company like Google, Microsoft, Facebook etc. wants to encash this segment. More personalised mean more revenue to these companies. Google being the largest and most monopolistic player of this segment has to constantly do something that will eventually help maintain its lead and monopoly over other players of the game. And, this happens at the price of our privacy. Privacy of users is something that can be compromised for the sake of money. So, only wise thing is the keep protecting our privacy by every possible means and raise our voice against every such step that can breach this.
How to set that Google+ contact do not appear in suggestion list:
1. Goto G-mail settings.
2. Look of option – “Email via Google+” under General tab.
3. Select the option “No one” in the drop down list for the question “Who can email you via your Google+ profile?”

Does our privacy really matter?

Was reading an article in today’s “The Hindu”“Through the PRISM, Big Brother is watching”. This article talks about how USA’s National Security Agency, in the name of surveillance and backed by some US law through a programme called “PRISM”, have direct access to servers of all big companies – Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Apple, AOL etc, as reported by “The Guardian” also. As per the article, it all started from Microsoft, who says – “Your privacy is Our priority”,  in April, 2007 to Apple as latest company to join the programme in October, 2012. Now, Dropbox can also be included in the programme. Google, Yahoo, Facebook etc. are also included in the programme. With direct access to servers, NSA can access any kind of stored data as well as real-time data – be it email contents, voice and video chat, photos, documents, search history or file transfers involving any person outside USA. Article reports that almost 2000 reports are issued every month by NSA. Now, on seeing and reading this, some questions arise in the mind:

1. Does USA have moral and legal right to access the data not pertaining to a US citizen?

2. Why these top companies who project themselves as protectors of free speech, make huge claims of protecting user’s privacy first, are involved in secret programme like this?

3. Are these companies under pressure of government in the name of law and security? If yes and they are compromising a user’s privacy, then why such huge claims about protection of user’s privacy and data?

4. Of course, senators are concerned and companies are also issuing the statement. See here. But the most important question need to be asked is – Does our (users’) privacy really matters (for these companies)?

In past also, continuous concerns have been raised over the approach of these companies towards the protection of privacy and user data – be it Google, Facebook or any other company. Sometimes, our data is sold to advertisers to increase revenue, sometimes our privacy is breached in name of better the user experience etc.

In India also, concerns are raised about the government’s intent on spying the users’ online activities and data. And, some acts of government and authorities in recent past have also fuelled the perception that they want to curb freedom of speech. We all know that how our privacy is breached by telecom companies in India despite the efforts of regulatory bodies. We are constant victims of pesky calls and smses.

What I think is that all these big and top companies whether Internet or telecom are least interested in protecting our privacy and data. For them, we only exist as commodities that can be sold and bought. It is only us who can protect our privacy and data. It is very much necessary and required to think twice before sharing any kind of personal and important information or document on Internet or social networking sites.