Google takes egregious liberties with our personal data, but it’s all most of us have ever known, so we accept it as some sort of twisted norm. To shine a little light on just how invasive Google’s practices are, here’s a fun little exercise: let’s imagine a world in which the US Postal Service is run by Google.
Mind if we scan your information?
Postal workers would collect your outgoing mail – but that’s where normal ends. Upon collecting the mail, the postal workers would open your mail and scan it. They would use the information from those initial scans to try to figure out how to add value to their postal service. They’d then go back in and read the contents of your emails. Finally, they would reseal your letter to be delivered to the intended recipient. All outgoing mail would receive the same treatment, as would any incoming mail.
The information gleaned from reading your mail would be brought back to the central post office. There, the postal workers would sort out what information could be interesting to other agencies of the US government.
Maybe you mentioned a big purchase, or a new cash heavy income stream. The IRS would love to know about that!
Maybe you mention wild parties or attending a rave. You were writing to your best friend, but why not loop in the DEA!
Maybe you make an off-color joke or express a strong political preference. May as well pass it along to the CIA!
All of this information, your information, would be shared with those agencies, and others, without asking your consent or even making you aware that your information had been shared. You wouldn’t be there to explain, to stand up for yourself, to clarify what was serious and what was humor. It would all be done over your head and without your knowledge.
Let’s sell it to 3rd parties
But they wouldn’t stop there. They’d then look for what might be valuable to third party buyers outside of the US government – corporations, foreign governments, anyone. Maybe you mentioned that you just got a new long-haired cat in a letter you sent to your grandmother. The post office would sell that information to a company that sells cat brushes or extra-strength vacuum cleaners, and that company would then use that information to target you in their ads.
That’s fairly harmless, though creepy. But the post office wouldn’t limit itself to reading only casual correspondences between you and your friends and family. They would read everything.
You receive a letter from a healthcare provider, perhaps including information about a diagnosis or treatment? They would read it and would sell whatever they want to whoever they want – disease status, family planning, what insurance you use and if you’re falling behind on bills. You receive a letter from an insurance provider – maybe your premiums are going up or they’ve decided to reject your application for coverage. Doesn’t that sound like the sort of information another insurance provider might be willing to pay good money for, so they can change their quote?
Your most sensitive information is in email
Many of us communicate the same sort of sensitive information we share by snail mail by email. Often, we communicate even more sensitive information by email than snail mail, due to the speed and convenience of email. If you don’t want the post office reading your mail and selling your information, you don’t want Google doing it, either.
We’re not trying to demonize Google – Gmail’s behavior is sketchy, but companies optimize around their business model. It’s the way of capitalism. Information is power and power is money, so if they have the ability to access your information, they’re going to do it. The only way to be sure that your private communications really are private is by using end-to-end encryption.
With end-to-end encryption, the company facilitating your communication is never able to access what you’re communicating. This is already widely available for messaging through WhatsApp, Signal, and other platforms. Earlier this year, Facebook publicly announced that it, too, will shift towards end-to-end encryption for its messaging systems.
PreVeil – If you don’t want Google reading your email
With PreVeil, secure, end-to-end encryption is also available for email. Using protocols that have been externally scrutinized for security, we ensure that no one but you and the intended recipient of your message are ever able to access your data. We’ll never view, read, or share your emails and files, because we can’t. You don’t need to trust us to respect your privacy or to keep our servers safe from hackers – even if we wanted to violate your privacy, it’s not possible. Even if a hacker compromises our server, all they’ll see is gibberish. With PreVeil, you’re fully secure.
Use Gmail for casual correspondence of no consequence, if you wish, but for those more sensitive communications, the only smart choice is secure, end-to-end encrypted email. To learn more about how we keep you safe, and stay out of your business, check out preveil.com.
*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from PreVeil authored by Danai Kadzere. Read the original post at: https://www.preveil.com/blog/if-google-ran-the-post-office/