It's stuff like this that makes you realize why fed-up Californians elected Arnold as their governor. Today, the newswires are buzzing with rapturous reports that State Sen. Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont, Calif.) has won senate approval for a bill that purports to shield citizens from the dangers of Google's Gmail. The trouble is, like the delusional Don Quixote, Figueroa is protecting us from a nonexistent threat.
Yeah, Gmail again. I am one of those kooks who feel that robot-reading policy is too creepy. A couple of my Fool colleagues -- who obviously haven't spent as much time as I have playing the bongos and occupying government offices -- think it's just fine.
Here's the real story. Figueroa's bill doesn't stop the infamous email scans. Its major "triumph" is to require that other email or instant messaging services, such as those provided by Yahoo!
What this looks like is grandstanding on a hot issue. Figueroa's alarmist "fact sheet" (read: propaganda page) has the cheek to invoke images of lonely troops overseas, along with painting a scary portrait of impending violations of patient-doctor and attorney-client privacy privileges. Lay off it, Liz. No one is forcing anyone to use Gmail, or any email service, for that matter. Worried about privacy? Don't get an account, and don't send sensitive information to addresses ending with gmail.com.
The only reasonable protection in this bill is the prohibition on compiling databases of user-identifiable information. I actually asked Google if this was a part of its strategy for Gmail. I didn't get a real answer to the question, but the firm's public "neutral" stance on this legislation answers the question for me. It's not doing it. (Note that, as currently written, the legislation does not appear to prohibit the compilation of non-identifiable information.)
This legislation, more than anything, shows Google's amazing ability to overhaul Internet commerce and the flack such moves can draw. Issues like these should be on the minds of anyone considering a bid in the impending IPO.
Should Liz lay off? Discuss it in the Fool's Google board.