You can now “unsend” email. Whoop di doop. Forgive me if my enthusiasm is under control. For one thing, “unsend’s” been around for years. Google’s announcement this June was merely that what had been experimental, will now be a built-in feature for everybody.
Once activated, “unsend” will give Gmail users between 5 and 30 seconds to click "undo send" after firing off an email. The news was sold as a huge relief for all those who’ve ever been caught sending workplace rants directly to their boss, or love notes to the wrong lover.
But for those who’ve ever lost a job over a misfired email, the new capability will come as cold comfort. There’s no un-do of their unemployment.
For those, like the Wall Street employees whose internal emails proved they knew exactly how nefarious the hoaxes and schemes they were a part of were – it’ll make no difference. They’ve mostly gotten away with blowing up the economy without paying a price in any case.
For the rest of us, the value of this “unsend” feature lies mostly in its placebo aspect. And that’s not a boon, it’s a danger. Google is still a $368 billion dollar corporation that’s gotten richer than most nations through extracting information wealth from its users – sus without their knowledge.
As one former tech insider put it to me, in the empire of Google: a “do not read” feature would be more valuable than “do not send” one.”
And that’s not even the worst of it. As many have reported by now, big data’s developed its own unique ways to sidestep or destroy our privacy, labor, civil rights and consumer protection laws. What really needs to be “undone” is not our embarrassing email, it’s the tech giant’s roll-back of the regulations and rules won over the last century.
You can watch my interview with Greg Grandin, author of Kissinger’s Shadow, the Long Reach of America’s most Controversial Statesman this week on The Laura Flanders Show on KCET/LINKtv and TeleSUR and find all my interviews and reports at GRITtv.org. To tell me what you think, write to:Laura@GRITtv.org.