Is Gmail Secure? All the Questions Answered
Gmail is the most popular email service provider. It has 1.8 billion users worldwide, out of which 130.9 million are based in the USA. It offers 15 GB of storage even on free accounts, has recently introduced Google Meet and has a superefficient synchronization tool which allows a seamless online experience wherever you are! For users who value usability and convenience, there is no other choice as exceptional as Gmail. But, is Gmail secure? If you are a die-hard fan of Gmail and believe that its safety standards match the levels of convenience, then this article will substantially add to your existing knowledge about Gmail.
Advantages of Gmail
Here are all the good reasons (and services) that make Gmail so popular.
Gmail is free
Most Gmail services are free. People use emails as a cheap communication option, more because you can access your mailbox on Android and iOS devices too while sitting on a bus or even in a theatre. It has crafted convenience for students, household individuals, businessmen, digital marketers, and corporations.
Free Storage Space
It allows free 15 GB storage, eliminating the need to keep a USB flash drive all the time.
This storage feature is a godsend for workaholic individuals who love to synchronize their work resources. It can store business documents, financial reports, customer presentations, workflow videos between different devices. The ease of accessing a limited part of this database even when offline, whenever and wherever is quite appealing.
There are certain online services that allow easy signup and login procedures if you have a Gmail account. Think of your Android phone, which uses Gmail as the ultimate entryway.
Google Meet is a free video-conferencing tool used by schools and corporates for carrying out lessons, training sessions and work meetings. You just need a 6-digit meeting code, forward it to your meeting attendee and start!
Google Classroom is a free platform where teachers and students align their study-related activities, submit and collect assignments, provide feedback and evaluate performance. The platform requires Gmail email addresses. Again, its maximum usability features are free to access and came in very handy during the global crisis.
Is Gmail Secure? Why or why not?
Digital experts usually employ these factors to examine the level of security and privacy of an email provider:
- Datacenters: the majority of Gmail datacenters are based in the USA. Now think of USA’s current net neutrality status and the extent of digital surveillance in the President Trump era.
- Open-source technology: Gmail is not an open-source project. This means that privacy advocates and auditors can not scrutinize the measures taken by Google to handle and secure users’ data.
- Self-destructing emails: Gmail does allow self-destructing emails, and because it is not a very common feature in free email services, the majority of Gmail users are not yet aware of this function. Moreover, Gmail does not ask automatically if you would like to send an email with a preset expiry date.
- End-to-end encryption: Gmail does not offer end-to-end encryption. What it does promise is 128-bit and TLS encryption standards which are only better than zero encryption. Read more about Gmail’s encryption initiatives in the next section.
- Advertisements: Google has its own Google Adsense program, which channels personalized advertisements that are crafted using the patterns of users’ online behavior.
- Data collection and handling: Gmail collects tons of user data during the signup process, including the residential address. The Google platform has services like Google Pay and Google Maps that work in correspondence. Plus, the emails are not encrypted and can be read by Google’s in-house staff and third parties: this means the bots (if not Google’s staff) can scan your personal information, join dots, spot your virtual and actual locations and create unique digital fingerprints.
Is Gmail secure and private with an Adsense Program?
Gmail processes user data and submits the analyses to third-parties, which further use your data to create personalized advertisements. Content of these commercial ads are based on the websites you visit, products you click or add to your shopping carts, emails you open, internet cookies you accept, places you visit and log on Google Maps, questions you answer and services that you discuss in the Gmail bodies.
Google also admits in its terms of service that it does submit user data to government agencies especially from the USA, depending upon the gravity of the situations. While sometimes it does not provide any data, there are specific, urgent circumstances in which it has to forward complete or partial details of user activity without any prior notice. Though Google sends a notification to the user when certain account information is requested, there are cases in which Google can not notify the user. It may happen if Google is legally prohibited to do so, the account is disabled or hijacked or the issue is high-priority or urgent.
Is Gmail secure when it only offers TLS Encryption?
Firstly, TLS encryption is the lowest of email encryption standards. It only works if both the parties, the sender and the receiver have TLS. If your recipient does not enable TLS encryption for some reason, your email will not be encrypted and is subject to exposure. An unencrypted email can be decoded and read by any bounty hunter snooping online activities. When you send or receive emails through Gmail, you and your recipient can view each other’s IP Address, which is one of the primary parts of your digital identity.
What should I do to make Gmail secure and private?
There are safer, more secure and private alternatives to Gmail that are based on open-source technology. These email providers have free basic plans and have the highest level end-to-end encryption. But if you are satisfied with the limited privacy Gmail has to offer, there are steps you can take to ensure maximum online security and safety:
- Use stronger passwords.
Use complicated passwords for your Gmail account based on a random sequence of alphanumeric and special characters. Change your passwords regularly. Do not use the same or similar passwords on different online accounts and platforms. Also, avoid using personal information in the password, for example, your spouse’s name or your previous cellular number.
- Enable 2Factor Authentication.
2Factor Authentication feature is gaining immense popularity in the internet sector. To keep your Gmail account secure, enable this feature either via Gmail’s built-in token generator or a third-party 2FA provider.
- Use a VPN.
For communication and every other activity you perform online, you need a device as well as network-level security which is almost only possible with an advanced VPN deploying 256-bit AES technology. Read how a VPN can secure you online.
- Follow Gmail account security checklist.
Gmail has a security checklist that examines the current level of account’s security and highlights areas that need urgent attention. You can access this checklist from your account settings and ensure all areas are covered.
While Gmail is partially secure, it is, in no way as private as we need it to be. Plus, Gmail’s Ad-sense Program and dependence on TLS encryption make its security and privacy promise all the more objectionable. Still, if you are highly impressed by the usability features of Gmail and are ready to take the aforementioned steps, then Gmail is super suitable for you.
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