Friday, May 28, 2004
Gmail update and my brilliant (brilliant! I say) solution
Liz Figueroa's revised SB 1822 passed the State Senate yesterday. The revised version scaled down, a bit, the privacy restrictions in the original version.

The original version disallowed Google (or any other mail provider) from scanning incoming/outgoing mail to place targeted ads without positive opt-in from the user. The revised version allows the automatic scanning of incoming/outgoing mail but prohibits mail providers from stashing all the info re a given user in a database, selling the information, sharing it, keeping old e-mails after a user has asked for them to be deleted, &c.

I'm still not thrilled with the legislation, which is now working its way through the Assembly, but it's not as off-the-wall as the original attempt had been.

That said, I have a brilliant, brilliant! I say, solution for Google and Gmail. You listening, Sergey Brin and Larry Page? Here goes.

Just as Templeton has his challenge/response system for his incoming e-mail, Google could maintain a database with e-addresses that have sent mail to someone with a address.

Why a database? Well, the first time you send e-mail to anyone with a address, Google will bounce the mail back with an (á la Liz Figueroa) request for you to read and approve their explanation of what gmail is and the accompanying terms of use and privacy statement. If you don't say, "Yup!" your mail won't be sent on. Once you say, "Yup!" all mail sent from that e-mail address to gmail accounts will forever after get through.

First time you send mail to a account, you have this little hiccup/delay and forever after, your mail gets checked against the database of approved senders and Bob's your uncle.

What's the upside? Are you still listening, Sergey, Larry? Two major upsides at least.

(1) Google, which already makes people signing up to use Gmail agree to the terms of use, will have proof positive that all incoming mail is sent by users who have also accepted the terms of use, in case Figueroa or some other yahoo comes along with a similar bill.

(2) Google will eliminate in one swell foop a HUGE chunk of incoming spam, because spamsters as a whole don't deal well with challenge/response systems.

Go for it, Google guys.

: views from the Hill

Bertold Brecht:   
Everything changes. You can make
A fresh start with your final breath.
But what has happened has happened. And the water
You once poured into the wine cannot be
Drained off again.

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