Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Tuesday, May 11, 2004
Corporate - IPOs
Get Google's email for a price
Pune , May 10
EVEN as Google is gearing up for its IPO, bids are being sought on eBay and elsewhere for participation in the company's new e-mail service, which is still in beta testing scheduled to continue for three to six months.
Google had offered the 1,000 persons selected as beta testers the opportunity to allow one other person each to use its free e-mail service called Gmail which features one gigabyte of storage including a newsgroup interface and a news aggregation page and facilitates e-mail searches.
It now appears that many of the beta testers are auctioning access to Gmail and that bids are running high even though the service has attracted criticism for inserting advertisements into messages based partially on content and a legislator has called for its ban.
The California Senator, Ms Liz Figueroa (Democrat), who has introduced legislation to block Google's e-mail service, has mooted that it be made illegal for an e-mail provider to scan its customers' correspondence in order to throw up relevant advertising even if explicit consent for doing so has been obtained from the customers in exchange for a gigabyte of storage.
According to the Senator: "Telling people that their most intimate and private e-mail thoughts to doctors, friends, lovers and family members are just another direct-marketing commodity isn't the way to promote e-commerce."
The Figueroa Bill proposes that an e-mail or instant-messaging provider be permitted to scan outgoing messages from its users but not incoming ones and includes an exception restricted to spam and virus filtering. The Bill, which seeks to do more than block Gmail, says no e-mail or IM provider may "review, examine or otherwise evaluate the content of incoming e-mail or instant message" originating from outside the system without the explicit permission of all outside correspondents.
The Bill, if it goes through, will make it illegal for a California technology to offer, for instance, a family-oriented e-mail service by eliminating sexually explicit content.
While Ms Figueroa's office acknowledges that tricky issues are involved in the Bill, it says that they will be resolved during negotiations in the legislature. Google, for its part, says it is reviewing the Bill and that it does not have any immediate comment on it.
Meanwhile, the London-based Privacy International, an advocate of enhanced government regulation over the business practices of private companies, is agitating the issues involved with the governments of 16 nations.
The Electronic Freedom Foundation, however, has not expressed opposition to Gmail.
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