Google tells NSA to step off, announces it is encrypting Gmail

"Starting today, Gmail will always use an encrypted HTTPS connection when you check or send email"

By Sarah Gray
March 20, 2014 11:16PM (UTC)
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The campus-network room at a data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa. With the cooperation of foreign allies, the NSA is potentially gaining access to every email sent or received abroad, or between people abroad, from Google and Yahoo'­s email services, as well as anything in Google Docs, Maps or Voice, according to a series of articles in the Washington Post. (AP/Google/Connie Zhou)

Though it'll take a lot for big tech companies to thwart the NSA, according to Edward Snowden, encryption is a good start. The NSA whistle-blower harped on this when he appeared via video at SXSW.

Today Google announced on its official Gmail blog (yes, it does use blogspot) that as of today, "Gmail will always use an encrypted HTTPS connection when you check or send email."


What does this announcement mean for the safety of users' email? It means that no other entity can listen in on emails as they go back and forth between users and Gmail servers. Gmail will also be encrypting emails -- "100% of them" -- when they move internally between Google servers.

Recently tech companies, somewhat worthlessly, revealed how much data they give the NSA. And though this won't put a definitive end to mass surveillance, Google's announcement does matter.

In documents leaked from Snowden, it was revealed that the NSA had tapped into communication between Yahoo and Google. According to TechCrunch, "Both Google and Yahoo maintain expensive fiber-optic data linkages in strategic data centers around the world to optimize the flow of information."


Encrypting data as it moves internally between servers is important in terms of protecting information when it travels abroad, and doesn't need a court order to obtain. This according to Google was a "top priority after last summer’s revelations."

The NSA's mass surveillance can still sweep up large amounts of data, but if it is encrypted, who knows if they'll be able to read it?

h/t TechCrunch

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email

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