Gmail encryption: Everything you need to know


Encryption may sound like a subject best left to hackers and tinfoil hat wearers, but don’t be fooled: It’s a critical part of contemporary life and something that’s important for everyone, especially business users, to understand. And one of the places where encryption is most relevant and misunderstood is in the realm of email.

If you’re using Gmail for electronic communication — be it for business purposes, for personal use, or some combination of the two — it’s well worth your while to know how the service does and doesn’t secure your information and what steps you can take to make sure you’re getting the level of privacy you need.

Ready to dive in?

Gmail encryption: How Google protects most messages

Google’s standard method of Gmail encryption is something called TLS, or Transport Layer Security. As long as the person with whom you’re emailing is also using a mail service that also supports TLS — which most major mail providers do — all messages you send through Gmail will be encrypted in this manner.

What that basically means is that it’ll be incredibly difficult for anyone to look at a message while it’s en route from point A to point B. It doesn’t, however, guarantee that the message will remain private or available only to the intended recipient once it reaches the destination mail server. Google itself, for instance, has the ability to see messages associated with your account, which is what allows the company to scan your email for potential spam and phishing attacks — and also to offer advanced features like Smart Reply, which suggests responses based on an email’s contents.

(Google used to scan messages for ad targeting, too, but it stopped doing that in 2017. And if you’d rather not have those smart suggestion features in the picture, by the way, you can always turn them off in your account — though that won’t have any direct effect on the Gmail encryption approach or when and how that extra layer of security is applied.)

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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