Google Aims to Answer Privacy 'Misconceptions' Over Gmail

Google added a new privacy explanation to its Gmail service to "correct some misconceptions," addressing two major criticisms: its data-retention policy and its crawling of incoming e-mail to match up with related advertising.

In the Q&A section, titled "a few words about privacy and Gmail," Google explained that it does not keep copies of e-mail on its servers after users delete them or close their account. It called its policy of keeping copies of messages in its backup systems "standard practice in the e-mail industry." Google also said it will make "reasonable efforts" to expunge deleted e-mails from its system.

Google reiterated its stance on the crawling of e-mail messages to serve advertising messages.

"Google believes that showing relevant advertising offers more value than annoying users with pop-up ads or untargeted banner ads," the company said in a shot at competitors Hotmail and Yahoo. Google also noted that other e-mail providers scan messages to filter spam or find viruses.

Gmail, still in a limited test, ignited a storm of criticism from privacy groups when it was announced April 1. Thirty-one privacy groups asked Google to halt plans to release the service 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. Also, a California state senator introduced a bill last month that would make Gmail illegal in the state.

Google said it would continue to provide answers to questions raised about Gmail. The search giant set up an e-mail address,, for feedback on its privacy policies.

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