Google changes its security settings for Gmail last month. The extra encryption will mean that nobody can read emails that are sent over various networks, and was an answer to the controversy surrounding the National Security Agency (NSA).
The world was appalled to find out that the government had been spying on innocent people, and Google wanted to do something about it.
That’s great to hear, but what do these security changes really mean for you as a Gmail user? Will it really stop the NSA from getting hold of information sent via email?
Decoded Science recently had the opportunity to speak to Mark Weinstein, a privacy advocate and founder of privacy-centric Sgrouples, to find out more about the security changes and what they really mean to you as a consumer.
Understanding the Google Gmail Security Changes
On March 20, Google announced that it was adding better encryption to its email service. Instead of just protecting the content between your own computer and the Gmail servers, the emails would be protected wherever they were sent. Before this, as soon as they left the Gmail servers to their intended destination, it was much easier for anybody to access the email details and read everything written. That was how the NSA was getting in to read your content, and find out who you were sending the emails to.
Now, the encryption makes it much harder for the NSA to snoop. It also makes it harder for anybody to snoop. That’s not to say it isn’t possible—there are hackers out there who will find a way around it—but it makes it harder.
Google Can Still Read Your Emails
One thing to note is that the changes do not mean your emails are secure from everybody. The people at Google can still read everything you write and send. Weinstein explained that Google only added the encryption from the server side of things, and it does not mean that the data is safe from the government bodies.
“Google still has all the data. Google still misuses it. Google knows too much about us, and the NSA can probably hack into all that anyhow.” Weinstein shared during the interview. He made it clear that his opinion of the encryption update was that it is just a smokescreen.
He went onto compare Google’s smokescreen with Facebook’s smokescreen around the same time that saw users gaining the ability to block friends of friends from seeing their posts and updates.
The extra privacy was there to diminish the fact that the social media site had introduced a new facial recognition program called “Deep Face Facial Recognition.”
What Can You Do Now?
There isn’t much anybody can do about the new changes, and the fact that Google still has access to all this data, aside from avoiding Google products. The best thing you can do is think about the content that you are sharing. It is best to err on the side of caution. If there is something you would not want to be shared, keep it for a truly private conversation.
It’s also important to use common sense. Phishing scams are constantly being developed. One that involved Google Docs that was developed shortly before the announcement of the encryption change was actually hosted on Google servers, to make it seem as real as possible.
According to Weinstein, “the privacy revolution is just starting. It’s going to take us four to six years because technology has no conscience, and capitalism has no conscience. You put those two together and it puts people at risk.”
More Online Privacy?
There is a movement towards more privacy, but that will only come with time. Until now, it is important to look into the details of any announcement regarding privacy and take it with a grain of salt. There is always something lurking in the background or happening behind the scenes that giants like Google would rather you not know.
While the Google encryption changes have led to emails being more protected from the NSA, Google still has all your details and can read your emails – so communication is not yet 100% private.