(See this later posting for a response from MSN and Yahoo.)
Here’s possible evidence that Gmail is not alone in scanning your email in order to target ads at you.
MarketingVOX (‘The Voice of Online Marketing’) reports that “the strange mix of privacy advocates, anti-globalists and anti-commercial groups that seem to be swarming on Google in hopes of preventing the company from providing its new Gmail service might be surprised to find out that the other free email providers already do exactly what the groups seem to find offensive.”
The colourful language aside, MarketingVOX raises an interesting possibility: That this kind of thing has been going on and we just didn’t know it. But does that make Gmail OK? I’d argue not. Just because it may have been happening doesn’t mean folk would find it acceptable. Indeed, there may be some legal questions lurking out there if it transpires some email providers have been scanning content to deliver ads.
…yes, GMail is scanning our emails, and I do not care since I follow the rule of thumb for e-mails: never write on an email something you would not write down on a postcard.