Call phones from Gmail using Google voice

Logo is property of Google

Google tightens link between Gmail and telephone: Great for consumers who trade service for privacy; Irrelevant for major corporations.

The walls between email, voice mail, and the telephone have been under attack for years, by a variety of companies. Google has recently added the ability for its Gmail users to place calls directly from their Gmail mailboxes. Google announced on August 25, "Starting today you can use Gmail to receive or place Google Voice calls." Here’s a short independent demo on Youtube

This seems to be aimed at the VOIP market shared by Skype and Vonage, as well as the traditional phone companies. Caveat: Before getting too excited about any Google product, remember that by using Google products, you grant them almost unlimited rights to your material.

Here is section 11 from Gmail’s Terms of Service I’ve emphasized the most troublesome term for me:

11. Content license from you

11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in
Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.
By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a
perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive
license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly
perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit,
post or display on or through, the Services
. This license is for the
sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the
Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the
Additional Terms of those Services.

11.2 You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make
such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals
with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated
services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of
those services.

11.3 You understand that Google, in performing the required
technical steps to provide the Services to our users, may (a) transmit
or distribute your Content over various public networks and in various
media; and (b) make such changes to your Content as are necessary to
conform and adapt that Content to the technical requirements of
connecting networks, devices, services or media. You agree that this
license shall permit Google to take these actions.

11.4 You confirm and warrant to Google that you have all the rights, power and authority necessary to grant the above license.

As I understand this section, no message in Gmail is "private". Will Google process your voice, as it does your text, and use it to build your profile so that it can direct advertising at you? Yes, probably.

While examining Gmail’s Terms of Service, note that Google may discontinue any aspect of Gmail at any time with no prior notice. This is the definition of an anti-SLA (Service Level Agreement). This is one more reason why relying upon Gmail for business messaging is reckless (emphasis is mine):

4. Provision of the Services by Google

4.1 Google has subsidiaries and affiliated legal entities around the
world (“Subsidiaries and Affiliates”). Sometimes, these companies will
be providing the Services to you on behalf of Google itself. You
acknowledge and agree that Subsidiaries and Affiliates will be entitled
to provide the Services to you.

4.2 Google is constantly innovating in order to provide the best
possible experience for its users. You acknowledge and agree that the
form and nature of the Services which Google provides may change from
time to time without prior notice to you.

4.3 As part of this continuing innovation, you acknowledge and agree
that Google may stop (permanently or temporarily) providing the
Services (or any features within the Services) to you or to users
generally at Google’s sole discretion, without prior notice to you
. You
may stop using the Services at any time. You do not need to
specifically inform Google when you stop using the Services.

4.4 You acknowledge and agree that if Google disables access to your
account, you may be prevented from accessing the Services, your account
details or any files or other content which is contained in your

4.5 You acknowledge and agree that while Google may not currently
have set a fixed upper limit on the number of transmissions you may send
or receive through the Services or on the amount of storage space used
for the provision of any Service, such fixed upper limits may be set by
Google at any time, at Google’s discretion.

Gmail is well done, and I admire the constant upgrades that Google introduces, but I regard Gmail as a consumer service — not a service that’s suitable for business use. Then again, maybe Google guarantees privacy and offers service level agreements to large corporate accounts. (I’m not aware that Google does anything like this.) Such guarantees, with penalty clauses, are the only way that corporate boards and managers will (or at least should) approve Gmail for business use.

Visit my website:
Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695


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