Posted by Kalyani M. on Aug 27, 2013
Google recently made headlines for all the wrong reasons when word of its approach to user privacy broke out. These days, most everyone has some sort of Google account, whether it’s through Gmail or linked social media sites like YouTube. So when a company as large and reputable as Google flat out denies any responsibility in protecting user privacy, it gives rise to concern all around the world. But instead of relying on large corporations to protect your data, be proactive in guarding your info by exclusively uploading to a secure cloud service that offers true data privacy and user anonymity.
In a recent court filing, Google claimed that its 425 million Gmail users should have no “reasonable expectation” of confidentiality in their communications. The lawsuit against Google was filed in reaction to a quote by the company’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt. The chairman reportedly said, “Google policy is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it.” The suit asserts that Google “unlawfully opens up, reads, and acquires the content of people’s private email messages.” Furthermore, it claims that “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.”
Consumer Watchdog first released news of this ongoing litigation back in July. According to part of Google’s motion for dismissal of the class action suit, “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 emails are processed by the recipient’s [email provider] in the course of delivery… a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.” The company’s attorneys claim that the plaintiffs in this case are trying “to criminalize ordinary business practices” and that, “While plaintiffs go to great lengths to portray Google in a sinister light, the complaint actually confirms that the automated processes at issue are Google’s ordinary business practices implemented as part of providing the free Gmail service to the public.”
Essentially, Google is telling its users that simply by using their service, they are permitting the company to scan, read, and data mine emails for advertising purposes. According to John M. Simpson, Privacy Project director at Consumer Watchdog, “Google has finally admitted they don’t respect privacy. People should take them at their word; if you care about your email correspondents’ privacy don’t use Gmail.” In a statement put out by Consumer Watchdog, Simpson continued, “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 case confirms privacy concerns that first came to light at Gmail’s launch back in 2004. And when looked at in the light of the NSA’s PRISM program, it might seem like online privacy is simply a fantasy. The climate of justified paranoia has even prompted two encrypted email services to shut down rather than face governmental subpoenas. Gone are the days when companies would try to outdo each other with stronger privacy statements. Today, privacy is entirely in the hands of the user. One of the best ways that users can protect their data and identities is to use a secure cloud service instead of public cloud services like Gmail.
Scared of Google? Move to the Private Cloud!
Users sometimes find that selecting a truly protected third party cloud service can be a challenge as most “secure” services on the market have glaring security gaps that leave their sensitive data wide open to third party attacks, leaks, and hacking. One rapidly expanding 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 and small businesses of all sorts and sizes can tailor the service to fit their needs.
SpiderOak protects sensitive user data with 256-bit AES encryption so that 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, users 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 syncing on the go.