Imagine you get a letter in the post offering you free water. Instead of paying Irish Water for your supply, another company promises you a generous quantity of free water.
The catch? Instead of water meters, the company wants to install meters measuring the comings and goings to your home. They will also record who you know, who you communicate with and how often.
They will store information on what you watch on television, what websites you visit on your computer, where you go on holiday, what you buy and where.
The same company allows you free water outside your home, but only after you allow them meter your smartphone to record where you go, who you call or text, what websites you visit, even where you – and your phone – spend the night. It’s a great service and, sure, you have nothing to hide, have you? Free water is free water, after all.
Although Google insists Gmail users retain ownership of their intellectual property, its terms of service state that uploading content to Google’s servers gives the company a “worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify . . . communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content”. This license continues after you stop using Google’s services.
Do you know what the implications of this are for the future? Neither do I. So perhaps Gmail or Google Drive is not the best place to store confidential news stories, exciting new film scripts or the entire written correspondence of your life.