Brace yourselves, people, and get ready for another round of shock and outrage as a new generation of internet users discovers that free, web-based web service has to be paid for somehow - and that "how" is usually through paid advertising.
Actually, Google has been using keywords in our Gmail users' e-mails to run ads for a long time. For example, when I was discussing a friend's European vacation a while back, I started getting ads in German and French, depending on what we were discussing in the e-mails. Did this freak me out? Well, not really, because I understand that the ads are automatically generated, and that I have a hard enough time getting the people I'm writing to in my e-mails to read my e-mails. No one else could endure it.
So Google has been working on that ever-mysterious algorithm of theirs, and is now working on a system to make the ads more relevant to the users, by using software to learn what types of ads the users might actually want to read, click on, and ultimately make a purchase. Is there a potential for abuse or invasion of privacy in this? Yes. There is no fail-proof way to make sure tha electronic communications will NEVER be hacked. Is it likely that my privacy will actually be breached in a way that will hurt me by this new ad program? No. Still, if you'd like to turn off the feature once it is rolled out to your account by visiting your settings page.
For more information, see Coming Soon: Better Ads in Gmail.
Jennifer Pointer (e-mail) is in Tulsa, OK. She promotes a simple, a low-tech approach to effective online profile management, search engine optimization and social networking.