Posted by Kalyani M. on Sep 18, 2013
Millions of online users rely on Google Gmail for personal and business correspondence. But despite passionate consumer backlash against privacy breaching policies by companies like Facebook and organizations like the NSA, Google is claiming in court that it has a right to the contents of your emails. This outrageous declaration has prompted consumer rights groups to fight back and governmental organizations are even considering banning Gmail for official correspondence. As lawmakers and privacy advocates champion digital privacy rights, one way to protect your data in the meanwhile is to exclusively store and sync sensitive files to a secure cloud service provider. A good provider will offer data privacy, user anonymity, and zero-knowledge policies so that only you have access to the contents of your data.
The group that filed the lawsuit against Google is Consumer Watchdog. The organization asserts that Gmail users do not reasonably expect that the company will search the contents of their emails. Director John Simpson recently told ABC News that Google “actually read and data-mine the content of the messages. They’re using my content for whatever purposes they want to do with it.” He hopes that the lawsuit might encourage Google to seek a profit through other means like “ads that aren’t based on reading your email. Or they could just stop reading emails. There are a number of commercial services that are more amenable to privacy concerns.” Other privacy experts are less certain of the legality of Google’s policy but still caution against it, as the company claims they are protected in part by the fact that they use computers and not people to scan the contents of emails. According to Lorrie Cranor, director of the privacy engineering master’s program at Carnegie Mellon University, “The issue isn’t whether it’s a machine or human reading emails, but what could happen as a result of having your email read…There is a difference between user expectations and business practices. Just because every business may do it doesn’t mean that users know the things that are actually done. Ideally, the best choice is to give people the option to opt out.”
What does Google have to say about all of this? Essentially, they claim you have no privacy rights over your email. In their filing for a dismissal of the class-action lawsuit, Google wrote, “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…Indeed, a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.” The idea is that because users put their content on Gmail, the company has a right to mine it for advertising purposes. The same idea was put forth by Facebook and shot down in the courts so it’s likely that this won’t hold up for long. Still, the company’s aggressive stance is frustrating to say the least. Google attorney Whitty Somvichian says that “Users, while they’re using their Google Gmail account, have given Google the ability to use the emails they send and receive for providing that service…They have not assumed the risk that Google will disclose their information and they fully retain the right to delete their emails.” Instead of waiting around for this company to protect your data, exclusively store anything sensitive to a secure cloud service like SpiderOak.
Securing Your Emails With SpiderOak
For most users, finding a truly protected third party cloud service can be a challenge as many “secure” services on the market have security gaps that leave emails and private data wide open to third party attacks, leaks, or hacking. One cloud storage and sync service that sets itself apart from the rest of the market is SpiderOak. This service provides users with fully private cloud storage and syncing, featuring all of the benefits of the cloud along with 100% data privacy. SpiderOak is available with onsite deployment and private servers or outsourced deployment through a private and secured public cloud server, so that users can tailor the service to fit their needs.
SpiderOak protects sensitive user data with 256-bit AES encryption so that emails, files, and passwords stay private. Authorized accounts and network devices can store and sync sensitive data with complete privacy, because this cloud service has absolutely “zero-knowledge” of user passwords or data. And all plaintext encryption keys are exclusively stored on approved devices because SpiderOak never hosts any plaintext data. This way, even if programs like NSA’s PRISM continue to stand unchallenged, people can rest easy knowing that their data is truly protected. SpiderOak’s cross-platform private cloud services are available for users on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms, along with Android and iOS mobile devices, allowing for full flexibility and mobile access.