Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce Bye, bye Gmail, even snooping has its limits

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Last week I shut down the last of my three Gmail accounts. From 2007, to a greater or lesser extent, these three accounts were used for various purposes, initially enthusiastically, later reluctantly.

Why get away from Gmail altogether? The company has always been snooping on email and feeding through advertisements based on keywords in the mail. But from March 1, the spying will become over-arching, ostensibly to provide a better customer experience.

I want no part of it.

Until a fortnight ago, I was one among the masses who railed at Google for its "deception", and castigated the company for increasing the degree to which it will snoop on its users.

But then a single article I read—and I can recall neither the title nor where I read it—brought me to my senses.

Simply put, the article pointed out that there was one way to tell Google that its policies were becoming extreme – stop using its services. Of course, the escapist argument is that one person quitting never makes a difference. But then if everyone argued that way, there would be no boycotts at all.

The first time I noticed the snooping was back in March 2010 when I was reading an email from the editor of iTWire, Stan Beer. I noticed the ads above the open email changing and watched fascinated as words from the email attracted related ads. It annoyed the hell out of me.

I was on the verge of moving my home server over to an Atom-based mini-ITX box at that time; when I did make the move about a month later, I consulted a friend, who is my UNIX guru, and, with his help, set up webmail on the new box.

SquirrelMail is not as polished a system as Gmail but it is more than adequate. The important thing was that my mail was now under my own control. Within a month, I stopped using Gmail for personal mail. My own server did the job adequately.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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