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Google: don't expect privacy when sending to Gmail


Staff member
Google: don't expect privacy when sending to Gmail

Critics call revelation 'a stunning admission' as Google makes claim in court

The Guardian, Thursday 15 August 2013

People sending email to any of Google's 425 million Gmail users have no "reasonable expectation" that their communications are confidential, the internet giant has said in a court filing.

Consumer Watchdog, the advocacy group that uncovered the filing, called the revelation a "stunning admission." It comes as Google and its peers are under pressure to explain their role in the National Security Agency's (NSA) mass surveillance of US citizens and foreign nationals.

"Google has finally admitted they don't respect privacy," said John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's privacy project director. "People should take them at their word; if you care about your email correspondents' privacy, don't use Gmail."

Google set out its case last month in an attempt to dismiss a class action lawsuit that accuses the tech giant of breaking wire tap laws when it scans emails sent from non-Google accounts in order to target ads to Gmail users.

That suit, filed in May, claims Google "unlawfully opens up, reads, and acquires the content of people's private email messages". It quotes Eric Schmidt, Google's executive chairman: "Google policy is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it."

The suit claims: "Unbeknown to millions of people, on a daily basis and for years, Google has systematically and intentionally crossed the 'creepy line' to read private email messages containing information you don't want anyone to know, and to acquire, collect, or mine valuable information from that mail."

In its motion to dismiss the case, Google said the plaintiffs were making "an attempt to criminalise ordinary business practices" that have been part of Gmail's service since its introduction. Google said "all users of email must necessarily expect that their emails will be subject to automated processing."

According to Google: "Just as a sender of a letter to a business colleague cannot be surprised that the recipient's assistant opens the letter, people who use web-based email today cannot be surprised if their communications are processed by the recipient's ECS [electronic communications service] provider in the course of delivery."

Citing another privacy case, Google's lawyers said "too little is asserted in the complaint about the particular relationship between the parties, and the particular circumstances of the [communications at issue], to lead to the plausible conclusion that an objectively reasonable expectation of confidentiality would have attended such a communication."

A Google spokesperson said on Wednesday evening: "We take our users' privacy and security very seriously; recent reports claiming otherwise are simply untrue.

"We have built industry-leading security and privacy features into Gmail — and no matter who sends an email to a Gmail user, those protections apply."

Simpson, a long-term Google critic, said: "Google's brief uses a wrong-headed analogy; sending an email is like giving a letter to the Post Office. I expect the Post Office to deliver the letter based on the address written on the envelope. I don't expect the mail carrier to open my letter and read it.

"Similarly, when I send an email, I expect it to be delivered to the intended recipient with a Gmail account based on the email address; why would I expect its content will be intercepted by Google and read?"

• This story was corrected on 14 August to make clear that Google's court filing was referring to users of other email providers who email Gmail users – and not to the Gmail users themselves.

Google: don't expect privacy when sending to Gmail | Technology | The Guardian


TRIBE Member
My Gmail is for junk mostly, but I use Google Apps for my personal email with my registered domain.

I wonder if Google Apps is included? I might be moving my domain and email to another provider if that is the case.

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TRIBE Member
I don't know about you guys but this isn't any real news to me. Email in and of itself has long been subject of being able to be intercepted and read by almost anyone because it's not encrypted. Sending an email is the equivalent of sending a postcard in the mail. Anyone who handles that postcard can easily read what was written on it. If you don't want anyone reading that postcard, then seal it up in an envelope and lick it shut. </loose analogy>

As for Gmail, how do you think they're able to target ads specifically to you? I think that even when you signup they straight out tell you that they will scan the contents of the email and send you ads based on that. This is one of the main reasons why Gmail will never offer encryption. They'll never be able to read your contents and target ads to you then.

If you really want encrypted email then you have a couple of options. Use a separate email client like Outlook or Thunderbird. Get yourself a free certificate of authority from one of the many places online (Comodo is one). Create your key(s) and send them to the recipient via usb key or something other than email and ask them to do the same. Now whenever you create an email, make sure to select encrypt & sign and the contents of the message will never be read (until quantum computing or the technological singularity comes about). A second option if you insist on using the Gmail web interface is to use an extension for Chrome called "Secure Gmail" which adds a little lock button next to the compose message button. You create your message as normal but it will ask for a password that the recipient should know. The recipient should also have the extension installed. When the recipient receives the message they will be prompted for the password. Without the password the message is all garbled and apparently not even Google can read the message. In fact, if you try to read the message in your sent items it will be encrypted as well.

Simple right?

That long winded, highly summarized tutorial my friends is why most people can't be bothered with encrypting their emails. Hell most people probably don't even encrypt the files stored locally on their computers like tax returns and banking information which is pretty easy with programs like TrueCrypt.



TRIBE Member
Nothing is private.

Not your boudoir photos with a former lover, not your thoughts, feelings, musings written down on paper or worse...the internetz.

The only thing "they" have yet to truly pursue is thoughtcrime.

I'm sure yet is the operative word. There's probably algorithms to infer your thoughts from your online presence. Why wouldn't there be?

Word to the wise...keep the secrets and things you don't want known, read, nor seen...in your mind.

It's the only somewhat safe place for them to live and breathe easy. You, too.

S'why real rebellion is all in the mind. SLC Punk stylez.
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