Google is taking a stand to protect its customers by blocking the National Security Agency (NSA) from reading any Gmail messages. It is just the first company to improve its encryption to protect the privacy of users, but others are expected to follow suit. Yahoo is expected to introduce extra encryption by the end of spring.
The public found out about the government’s ability to spy on innocent bystanders when Ed Snowden informed the media. Among the leaked documents was that the government was spying on communications via email and social media, which led to some of the bigger names publicly responding with their anger. Google, Yahoo and Facebook were among the companies that were angry and upset at the use of their systems.
However, cynics wonder just how honest the companies are being about the reasons for their annoyance. While the social media sites and email providers say they want to protect the customers, they know that if customers walk away they will lose business. It could be that the companies are really worried about how many people will stop using their services if they refuse to act on this. As ABC notes, a decline in use of the services would lead to a decline in the number of ads that company could get out to the public. This then leads to a financial decline.
So, it has led to Google blocking the NSA from the Gmail messages, and the only way to do that was to add encryption. From now on, all the emails a customer sends and receives will be completely encrypted. All information will remain private when transferring between the Gmail servers and the company’s data centers. According to the security engineering lead for Gmail, Nicolas Lidzborski, protecting messages as they transfer between data centers was highlighted as a priority after Snowden’s report leaks.
The big companies rallying for changed have asked President Barak Obama to actively look into changing the way the NSA works. However, protecting the transferring messages was not something he would consider. It has led the tech giant to take the measures to put the privacy of its customers first. However, Obama will look into making some changes based on the information that was leaked in the summer.
Installing the new encryption will mean that the government now has to ask Google for any emails it believes to be useful. This is the way that customers previously believed was the only way the government would be able to see their emails.
The people of the United States are still protected. If the NSA has just cause, it will be able to view the emails of suspects. However, American Civil Liberties Union senior policy analyst Chris Soghoian points out that now the NSA cannot spy on 500 million different people at the same time.
Most people will not even realize that there has been a change to their email security. However, they can be comfortable knowing that their emails are protected whether they send via a desktop or mobile browser. Google wants to protect its customers and has decided to block the NSA from reading Gmail messages completely.
By Alexandria Ingham