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Link: Privacy is a team sport

As part of a longer thread, Cory Doctorow tweeted:

After all, privacy is a team sport. I don’t use Gmail (my mail is on a standalone server that @orenwolf keeps at a data-center in Toronto, and I POP it every 60 seconds and move the mail offline to my encrypted laptop).

In some sense, none of my mail is in the cloud. In another sense, ALL of my mail is in the cloud, because EVERYONE I SEND MAIL TO is using Gmail or a handful of its competitors, all of whom mine that email for commercial surveillance purposes.

It’s pretty wild to think of it this way. We might take steps to protect privacy on email we receive, but email we send may be scanned/mined by the recipient’s email provider.

If that happens, what are the grounds to do this? Senders have no relationship with the recipient’s email provider and no way to know this is happening, let alone signal consent.

Scanning emails for security and spam prevention purposes is one thing. Using that data to feed surveillance capitalism is something else.

This isn’t definitely occuring, but if providers are mining user’s emails for advertising, it’s possible – likely, even – that this is not limited to emails that the user sends.

If this is happening, we arrive at a separate question: are email providers building profiles on people who don’t use the service? In theory, this could be tied to other data sources to match a data to a user through their email address.

Bearing all of this in mind, Doctorow’s positioning of privacy as a ‘team sport’ makes a lot of sense. Perhaps we have a responsibility not to use services like Gmail to protect the people we communicate with as well as ourselves.