UK punters scowl at webmail ad targeting
Hands off our inboxes
Two in five Brits are worried that free webmail comes at the expense of privacy because firms are scanning their messages in order to serve up targeted ads.
A similar 40 per cent of 1,800 Brits polled in a survey by alternative freemail firm GMX were unaware of the practice. One third of Brits quizzed during GMX's Attitudes to Email study reckoned scanning of personal email should be allowed only on a voluntary basis, with providers offering the ability to opt out.
Only one in 50 of those quizzed thought the practice was in their best interests. One in five (18 per cent) were indifferent to the scanning, with the rest either against or previously unaware of the practice. Negative reactions included anything from embarrassment to anxiety.
"It is understandable that many Britons are wary about their private emails being scanned for advertising reasons," said Eva Heil, MD at GMX. "It is certainly important that every user is at least informed if this is done by their email service.
"At GMX, we view emails to be like sealed letters, and so we do not scan private email content for ad reasons."
Heil drew a distinction between filtering out spam and viruses from incoming messages and scanning messages solely to serve up ads. Some webmail outfits, such as GMX, scan for malware and spam but not for the purposes of serving up targeted ads. Scanning simply in order to serve up ads is a sore point for many consumers, according to the GMX-sponsored research, which also found that the average Briton maintains an average of two email accounts which they check once a day. ®
Oh naughty naughty
GMX claiming they treat email like sealed mail - well here is the kicker you cannot see who sent the mail on standard snail mail only the postbox, but on email the 'envelope' contains the sender details, which of course can be profiled.
We need another system than email in its current form, I think people are already going to whitelisting anyhow, and encryption will continue on as well, though note neither of those can stop an ISP from profiling the header information, in email as it currently stands.
It's pretty simple, really…
With e-mail providers, you have many many choices. You are under no obligation to pick the one which is free and serves targeted ads. Personally, I do… for some things. For others, I have a server (which I own) in a rack (which I rent) which handles things instead.
If you want free e-mail, there's going to be a trade-off. There has been for as long as free e-mail has existed. If you don't like it, pick another option.
re: There is an easy way to avoid this threat:
Well free webmail is solving a problem your ISP isn't:
when you're not at home, how do you get your email?
Most ISP's I've used will allow you to log in to your email account from outside their network, but the connection isn't encrypted, so anyone sniffing on the network can abuse your email.
But you don't need access all that often, so spending the folding stuff on webmail access is a little redundant.
There's another reason for it, too. And one the ISP really doesn't want to help you with: if you use the ISP email, when you leave them you have to contact everyone to say you're not there any more.
Use webmail and you have one email address you don't have to change when you change ISP.
'course spending money on that is worth while.
And you are still locked in to requiring the webmail company to continue operating.