Eugene Volokh makes a lot of sense (he keeps doing that!) about the new Google free e-mail service (here and here). Google will provide 1GB of disk space (WooHoo!), with advanced searching capabilities, but will include targeted advertising based on the content of the messages (as determined by computers, not humans).

A California state senator has suggested banning the service, based on privacy concerns. But, as Eugene says:

It’s about preventing a form of marketing that some people think is distasteful, and that some people think might change people’s attitudes towards privacy (“the idea that e-mail is as private as a letter slowly recedes”).

I don’t think that this is something that the California Legislature should be using its coercive power to do. The government shouldn’t be banning voluntary services — services that many users might find to be quite valuable to them, and to involve no real intrusion on the rights of others — in order to prevent changes to voters’ ideas about e-mail.


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