It takes two to email

Declan McCullagh echos something I’ve heard several places about Google’s Gmail service:

The objections lodged against Gmail are telling, because they illuminate two different views about how to respond to new technologies. The protechnology view says customers of a company should be allowed to make up their own mind and that government regulation should be a last resort. Privacy fundamentalists, on the other hand, insist that new services they believe to be harmful should be banned, even if consumers are clamoring for them.

I’m not one of the people clamoring to ban Gmail (see previous post for my own take) but the above argument does miss the important point that email is a two-way street. Maybe you’re happy to sign away your privacy to a third-party company, but I’ve signed no such agreement. When I send email to you or to a closed mailing list you’re on I have the expectation that, at the very least, you will first read the email before deciding to share it with a third party. I trust Google, but I want that expectation of privacy to continue after all the other email-providers follow suit with their own arrangements.