Gmail, the new webmail service from Google [WAMN:05-Apr-04] is proving a bitter pill to swallow for Californian senators concerned about privacy issues.

In a departure from its more traditional search engine role, Google has devised the email service which provides a gigabyte of storage space for users to save and search all messages. So far so good.

However, in order to pay for this, Google's practised search skills were to be applied to message text, enabling "relevant text ads" to be inserted in place of untargeted pop-up ads.

It is this that worries senators such as Liz Figueroa who argues that: "consumers need to be confident that their internet-based shopping and communication is private and secure".

With the backing of other senators, she has introduced and approved a bill that prevents Google from searching, collecting and passing on information from personal messages.

The bill needs to be debated at California's Assembly before becoming law, but Google hopes to modify "the specific language of the bill" to enhance Gmail's privacy protection.

Data sourced from: BBC Online Business News (UK); additional content by WARC staff