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Convenience will push the genie of privacy invasion back in the bottle

When Google parses your email to serve up advertisements, you may feel violated. When it parses your email and stops you making a fool of yourself, you could be grateful.

Will gratitude overcome the privacy invading genie in time? We think so.

One forum poster wrote more than five years ago: "I was having an intimate email conversation with a friend and suddenly I see Google Ads appear on the right side of my screen relating to my email. I felt violated ... like some lecherous troll is sitting at Google headquarters masturbating to what I'm writing."

Privacy advocates liken Google's actions to the Post Office opening letters it is meant to deliver in order to sell advertising targeted at letter senders and recipients depending on the content of clearly private correspondence. Google likens its actions to a secretary opening mail addressed to his or her boss in order to process mail efficiently. It even made a court filing in August 2013 explaining its view that senders of email to third parties (itself) give up their right to privacy.

We don't know about you, but we would very quickly stop doing business with an individual who let his secretary open his mail to sell targeted advertising based on their content.

Spin this scenario slightly differently, however, with convenience replacing the dreaded targeted advertisement and revulsion could turn to appreciation. A friend recently expressed pleasant surprise that Google had reminded him to attach a document he had wanted to send by email to a business associate. Upon parsing his email, Google had spotted the words "please find attached" in the body and noticed that there was no attachment. When he had pressed "send", Google had asked him whether he really wanted to send his email minus the attachment. He was grateful for the catch.

Google chairman Eric Schmidt was once quoted as saying "Google's policy is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it".

As both Apple and Google press ahead with competitive plans to put their advanced technology at the disposal of their customers to organise everything from lunch meetings to multi-party conferences, we predict that the creepy line is going to get pushed further and further over the privacy encroachment boundary. Convenience will result in greater user forgiveness. The management of our #knowledge and with it our lives by those with the power to do so at no more cost to us than the glance of an eye towards a targeted advertisement will help many of us accept the latter in order to gain from the former.

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