Monday, August 19, 2013

Your Gmail isn't private!

We're not talking about government spy agencies looking at your Gmail here. Last week in a court case Google revealed that Gmail users have no "reasonable expectation" that their communications are confidential. The media reports all expressed shock and horror at this revelation, but I'm left wondering why? Perhaps it's a age issue. I first started using email in the mid 1980s when I was a student. I could send emails to friends on campus and to other universities via a network called JANET. There were frequently problems with the delivery and reception or mails and you got used to emailing the institution's Postmaster for help.  Their address was always The Postmaster would dig through their mail server and find lost mails, resend them, or forward them to correct addresses. This habit of contacting the Postmaster continued right into the 90s when email became more widespread. Knowing that there were people in the middle of the email process who managed the system made you realise that email wasn't confidential - it was never intended to be.
   I use Gmail and I've always accepted that there would be people working for Google who had a legitimate right to access the mail servers and if necessary my email. I don't expect them to make a habit of reading my emails, but somebody could. Similarly people working for Flickr can view my photos, even if they are marked private. Employees at DropBox may also need to access my files. I'm puzzled why people don't understand this - the Internet isn't private. People have to manage it and this means they have access to your stuff. That's just how it works.

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