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Google testing software to take email encryption to the masses


Rose Powell

Google hopes their new plug-in will make the email of those who choose to use it more secure.

Google hopes their new plug-in will make the email of those who choose to use it more secure. Photo: Reuters

Google is testing a new browser extension that will be able to encrypt Gmail messages sent to and from Google Chrome, making it harder for someone to read them.

While email encryption software isn't new, and Google already offers an encrypted connection for Gmail (shown as https on the address bar), the new service would encrypt the message content.

Google said it hoped the plug-in would make the process of encryption more accessible and therefore more widely used. Encryption software tools like PGP and GnuPG are freely available but are cumbersome for consumers.

Google's plug-in, is called End-to-End, promising uninterrupted protection of data travelling between two parties.

According to a recent Google Transparency report, 40 to 50 per cent of emails sent from within their hosted accounts aren’t encrypted.

''We recognise that this sort of encryption will probably only be used for very sensitive messages or by those who need added protection. But we hope that the End-to-End extension will make it quicker and easier for people to get that extra layer of security should they need it,'' the statement said.

The company has released the source code to the tech community to check for bugs and get feedback before a public launch.

The move follows Yahoo's announcement in April it was moving towards a platform where all emails were encrypted by default.

Google’s source code release is part of a day of action scheduled for Friday called Reset the Net. That event aims at motivating internet users to "take privacy back" in light of mass surveillance operations by the US National Security Agency (NSA).

It will involve a range pro-privacy activities coordinated by the Electronic Frontier Foundation with Google, Reddit, Mozilla, Amnesty International and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

"One year ago, we learnt that the internet is under surveillance, and our activities are being monitored to create permanent records of our private lives – no matter how innocent or ordinary those lives might be,'' Mr Snowden said in a statement issued by his lawyer.

''Today, we can begin the work of effectively shutting down the collection of our online communications, even if the US Congress fails to do the same."

4 comments so far

  • I am unclear about Google's proposal - does this mean they will no longer themselves read Gmail messages, for the purposes of advertising targeting?

    Date and time
    June 06, 2014, 8:21AM
    • Does this mean Google itself will no longer read my emails?

      Date and time
      June 06, 2014, 8:56AM
      • Assuming this is implemented correctly, Google will not be able to read your emails. The encryption keys are stored on the client and the server has no access to them.

        Date and time
        June 06, 2014, 11:35AM
    • Google hold the keys and I bet they will Not encrypt the data from themselves so they can continue to scan the contents of your communique's and sell the information to third parties.
      Low life scum behaviour..... "Do no Evil" is there motto ... what a joke!

      Date and time
      June 06, 2014, 9:29AM

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