We are not only the product these days. We are also the product marketers.
Yet some Gmail users have, in recent days, become increasingly upset that Google appears to be using their names in order to sell Google products to non-Gmail users.
A Google forum discussion offers the spontaneous distaste of users who claim that Google has co-opted them as salespersons.
"STOP IT!" reads a post from someone with the handle Mrcheck. "At no point did I say it was ok for google to send email messages to my non-gmail contacts recommending they sign up for gmail."
The contents of the e-mails are reproduced on the forum. The subject line is "(My Name) wants to chat."
The e-mail then goes on to describe all of the fun-filled benefits of GMail and Google Talk. Which are many, varied, and borderline irresistible.
Mrcheck's post was written in November of last year. Since then, some more Gmail users have come forward to say the same thing has happened to them.
Jen O., for example, also expressed frustration: "This just happened to me! I posted something in a Google group today, and the same message you described went to everyone in the group! What's going on?! Not happy Google...."
Another user, Afshin V, was even more incensed: "Ditto!...This is crazy. How can Google be so clearly ignorant of people's privacy? Sending a message in my name without me having any knowledge of it???...PLEASE EXPLAIN AND STOP THIS GOOGLE. Or I for one will close my account."
Yet another, Quiztsy, complained that what he or she called "Google spam" actually appeared in his "Sent" folder.
Some might, though, speculate that it might have something to do with CEO Larry Page wanting Google to be as ubiquitous as hair.
These Gmail users also seem upset and surprised that Google's customer service hasn't yet replied to their expressions of pain and confusion.
I have, therefore, contacted the company to ask what might be happening here and will update this post, should I get a reply.
Could this simply be another strain of the drift to a more social vector of advertising?
This was recently epitomized by the case of a man who posted a joke about a 55-gallon barrel of personal lube and ended up being an unwitting Facebook spokesman for the lube.
Update 7:32 p.m. PT: After this story was published, Sarah, a Google community manager, finally posted on the forum: "It sounds like you are seeing chat invite emails. These emails are generally sent when you invite a non-Gmail user to chat with you -- I've attached a help article below. Did you invite these recipients to chat with you by clicking 'Invite to chat' on their name card or after typing their name into the Chat box? If not, then please let me know so that we can investigate the specifics of your case."
MrCheck posted in reply that he couldn't remember whether he'd clicked "invite to chat" or not. However, he added: "I would have hoped that a little more warning than 'Invitation Sent' would occur if you were about to send an email to someone asking them to join Gmail, but apparently that's not how things work."