1. Google sent out a press release about the Gmail service without mentioning the intention to put ads in the e-mails or how those ads would be selected. Was that ethical? Explain why or why not.
2. Sergey Brin offered the argument that all e-mail providers scan your e-mails for content to ensure that it is yours and that it isn’t a spam e-mail. Does that argument justify the decision to scan e-mails for content in order to place “contextually relevant” ads? Explain why or why not.
3. Does the fact that the scanning process is done by computer, with no people reading the e-mails, make the act any less of an invasion of your privacy?
4. Could Google have launched Gmail in a way that would have avoided the media firestorm over privacy? Explain your answer.
In spring 2004, with business booming and Google basking in the glow of its ever-growing popularity, Larry [Page] and Sergey [Brin] prepared to dazzle Internet users with a different kind of email. Building on the strong Google brand name, they called the new service “Gmail.” . . . Larry and Sergey wanted to make a big splash with Gmail. There was no reason to provide the service unless it was radically better than email services already offered by Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, and others. They built Gmail to be smarter, easier, cheaper, and superior. Otherwise Google users wouldn’t be impressed, and its creators wouldn’t be living up to their own high standards . . . [Larry and Sergey] had identified email problems that Google, with its immense computing power, could address. For example, it was difficult, if not impossible, to find and retrieve old emails when users needed them. America Online automatically deleted emails after 30 days to hold down systems costs. There was no easy way to store the mountain of emails that an accumulative Internet user amassed without slowing personal computers or paying Microsoft, Yahoo, or another firm to provide additional storage.