Google might just be a bigger threat to your privacy than the surveillance programs operated by the National Security Agency.
Recent news articles show that the online giant, which operates the world’s most popular search engine, has little regard for privacy or its customers.
The corporation, which has one of the most valuable stocks on Wall Street, has asserted that the 425 million users of its hugely popular Gmail email service have no expectation of privacy. In court documents, Google’s lawyers actually admitted that the company believes it had a right to examine the private correspondence of Gmail users.
“Just as a sender of a letter to a business colleague cannot be surprised that the recipient’s assistant opens the letter, people who use web-based email today cannot be surprised if their communications are processed by the recipient’s ECS [electronic communications service] provider in the course of delivery.”
Reading Every Gmail
The documents were filed in an attempt to get a lawsuit that alleges Google violated laws against wiretapping dismissed. The suit filed by a group called Consumer Watchdog alleges that Google scans every email from a non-Gmail account in order to target ads for consumers, The Guardian reported.
“Google has finally admitted they don’t respect privacy,” said John Simpson of Consumer Watchdog. “People should take them at their word; if you care about your email correspondents’ privacy, don’t use Gmail.”
That means any information you send over a Gmail is stored in one of Google’s servers, which makes it vulnerable to hacking. Such emails could also be shared with the NSA and other intelligence agencies. Google has acknowledged that it does work with the NSA. Anybody who’s used Gmail knows that Google puts up ads related to terms and words mentioned in the emails.
The suits states: “Unbeknown to millions of people, on a daily basis and for years, Google has systematically and intentionally crossed the ‘creepy line’ to read private email messages containing information you don’t want anyone to know, and to acquire, collect, or mine valuable information from that mail.”
In their reply, Google’s lawyers said of the suit, “Too little is asserted in the complaint about the particular relationship between the parties, and the particular circumstances of the [communications at issue], to lead to the plausible conclusion that an objectively reasonable expectation of confidentiality would have attended such a communication.”
Deliberate Security Flaws in Chrome
Even more troubling is a security flaw that software designer Elliott Kembler discovered in Google Chrome, a popular browser. Kembler discovered that passwords saved in Chrome can easily be viewed – by anyone who uses the computer. Simply click on the Settings icon, then “Show advanced settings…” and then “Manage saved passwords” in the “Passwords and forms” section. This includes passwords for email and social media sites.
Kembler told the Guardian that other browsers like Firefox had the same flaw but got rid of it.
Justin Schuh, the head of Google’s Chrome developer team, told the Guardian he was aware of the flaw but had no plans to fix it.
How to Protect Your Data from Google
You can still search in relative privacy by using search engine DuckDuckGo, which does not save information about its users. If you don’t trust Chrome, browsers such as Opera and Firefox offer a little more privacy. One browser that I would definitely avoid is Internet Explorer. There are also other storage solutions, such as Idrive, out there and the possibility of simply storing data on a flash drive or other mobile storage device.
Do you have any tips on how to protect data online? Let us know in our comments section below.