CA Senator Introduces Anti-Gmail Bill

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California state Sen. Liz Figueroa, an outspoken critic of Google's new Gmail e-mail system, introduced a bill last week that would ban Google from scanning e-mails to serve text advertiser listings.


Figueroa amended a bill she introduced in February to protect consumers' Social Security numbers. The amended bill would require an e-mail service to get permission from the receiver and sender before scanning messages. The bill exempts scanning for viruses and spam.


In a statement, Figueroa, who has described Gmail's ad method as "like having a massive billboard in the middle of your home," said the bill targets Gmail because "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."


In addition to the scanning of messages to display ads, privacy groups object to Google's data policies not pledging to keep search and e-mail information separate, and its plan to store e-mail messages, even those deleted, for an unlimited time.


Google ignited a firestorm of privacy concerns with its April 1 announcement of Gmail. Thirty-one privacy groups asked Google to halt plans to release Gmail until it addresses concerns over the ad system and Google's data retention policy. A United Kingdom privacy group has filed complaints with regulators in 16 countries that Gmail would violate privacy laws in Europe and Canada.


Google has held that Gmail complies with all privacy laws, and it will evaluate feedback from its 1,000 beta testers before making any changes to the service.


The California Senate Judiciary Committee plans to hold hearings on Figueroa's bill on May 4.


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