Facebook Mail

That was the next obvious step in the world of social networking. We all knew this was coming at some stage.

The question, however, is – will we really use it like Gmail? Facebook and its founders are brilliant, so I’m sure this will be quite a competitor to Gmail in terms of its offerings. But the thing that is between the lines – Privacy.

Google never caused us as much worry as Facebook has in the past few months. Mark Zuckerberg has gone from being this cool… a little nerdy but cool… genius to a guy who just wants to grab as much money as possible, damn the consequences.

Facebook knows more about me than anyone on earth. They have what we call “comprehensive data.” A particular group of friends might get to see some links, some photos, know some incidents about me. But Facebook has all of that. Including status messages about incidents that I do not even remember. (Yes, we all do get personal sometimes on public platforms. We all like to be heard bitching.)

Facebook also knows what I like to read, which sites I visit, what photos I like etc. Now – Email.

Going back a little bit before moving ahead –

There were murmurs and some concern about 3 years ago when Gmail started putting up ads which were very relevant to the content in your emails. If you were writing about renting a house, voila! there were ads about houses for rent and such. People wondered if Google was reading their email. Then Google came out and said “Well, it is only machines that are reading your email. And they aren’t really reading it. They scan it for certain words and pull out ads related to that.”

And somehow that turned to “Oh it is only machines! That is fine then!”

Did anyone wonder if these machines also transmitted some content to anywhere else? Or store these little nuggets of information in their vast memories? The question has been haunting me for the past few days because I’ve been getting a loooot of “Find Your Life Partner” mails that are not marked as spam. Google has a fairly decent spam filter so I wonder why these mails are getting routed to my inbox, despite repeatedly marking them as spam.

While in conversation with a friend, I remembered this nugget of privacy issues from 2007 and I figured since there is a lot of talk about weddings in my mails, given half the people I know are getting hitched etc. I wondered how that would translate to other things though.

Now it turns out Google accidentally (oops) has been collecting personal information from people who weren’t wise or savvy enough to password protect their wi-fi data. (And people wonder why our generation has trust issues!)

So if the most trusted internet giant has begun to leak like this, what would Facebook – who has blatantly stated that privacy is an evolving thing and we should all open our doors to the entire world – do with access to my mail?

Hey! Sure they might be really conscious with the email and all. But at this point, I wouldn’t put it past Zuckerberg to say “hey fellas, if you didn’t want us to read and share it, you shouldn’t have simply called the person and not emailed it.”

Facebook has done a lot of damage control since March. But certain things linger in our memories… Of course, most of us signed up for an email the minute they were announced. What we do with it is a different thing though.

The best thing about Gmail is the integration of everything… it is a one-stop sign in for search engines, emails, chat and more. Facebook, however, is blocked in several offices where Gmail is tolerated. How would that work? Facebook is still considered a social thing, a fun thing.

And right now the question is – how much do you want Facebook to know?

Side note: A series of investigations on the Wall Street Journal pointed out that various nuggets of seemingly innocent information was being sold to various marketing firms. To the uninitiated, it might seem like this long string of numbers couldn’t possibly reveal the most personal data – name, address/email. But anyone with sufficient skills could perhaps say that it isn’t that hard to trace out the numbers to a particular source. We are all numbered fugitives on the internet and privacy is an illusion we all hide behind.

While we can’t do much about those e-traces we leaves behind (particularly if you are living outside the US, where cookies are just accepted), we would definitely like to control certain things what we can.

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