What are the benefits of Gmail
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This is Gmail
Gmail is Google's own email service. Everyone who creates a new Google Account will be asked to create a Gmail address. These addresses usually end in @ gmail.com. Alternatively, you can set up a Google account with an existing email address, but comparatively few users make use of this option.
E-mails can be easily checked on the smartphone via the Gmail app. The app is pre-installed on most Android devices. In the standard setting, it automatically retrieves the mails from the linked Google account. If you do not want this, you can change the corresponding setting in the account synchronization.
A leaner version of the Gmail app for Android has been available since autumn 2020: Gmail Go. The app requires less storage space, otherwise there are hardly any differences to the original app.
Other Gmail addresses or email accounts from other providers such as GMX can also be integrated and managed in the Gmail apps.
Does Google read my email?
All email sent or received from a Gmail address goes through Google servers. The content is automatically scanned there. In 2018, Google wrote in a statement about this: "Nobody at Google reads your emails." (Click here for the Google blog article.)
Google explains that this scan looks for language patterns and keywords to detect spam and phishing. If you use the “Intelligent Answer” function, Google will suggest an answer based on the text evaluation.
Until 2017, Google used text analysis to place personalized advertising. The company said it ended this practice in 2018.
In the past, e-mails were also searched for clues about purchases made, even if they took place at retailers who had nothing to do with Google. This practice received a lot of criticism. In the meantime, Google no longer mentions Gmail mailboxes as a source, but purchases from third parties are still recorded.
Regardless of this, Google collects metadata relating to all aspects of e-mail communication, i.e. information about when you are in contact with whom. It can be assumed that Google will evaluate this for all of its purposes (advertising, search suggestions, improving services).
Does Google Mail share with third parties?
In the summer of 2018, an article in the American newspaper Wall Street Journal shook people's minds. It was said that Google had hundreds of third-party app developers read its users' emails.
The background to this were email apps from other providers, which make it possible to display messages from Gmail addresses on smartphones. This is common practice and not a fundamental problem, but you should choose a reputable service. A negative example is the app provider Edison Software, where employees are said to have read the emails of hundreds of users.
You can see which apps have access to your account in your Google account under:
How secure is Gmail?
Gmail encrypts emails on the way to the recipient using the best method the recipient supports. Usually this is an encryption called TLS (Transport Layer Security). Gmail also supports S / MIME as additional encryption, but you have to set it up first.
There is also the option of securing the Gmail account with a second factor, for example with the authenticator app or a Yubikey (a kind of USB stick that proves one's identity).
So Google secures its own emails very well against attacks from outside. The big point of criticism: Google itself has full access to the emails and can issue them if there is a corresponding court order.
However, this is also the case with other email providers. You can protect yourself against this by setting up additional end-to-end encryption for your e-mails.
Controversial: Confidential mode
Since August 2018, Google has been providing a new function in the Gmail app for Android and iOS: the "confidential" mode. If you write an email and switch this mode on, certain conditions apply:
- You can set an automatic deletion date.
- The recipient cannot forward, print, or download the email.
- You can set up a passcode that the recipient needs to read the mail.
- E-mails that have already been sent can be blocked retrospectively for the recipient by revoking their access rights.
However, the confidential mode does not prevent a recipient from taking a screenshot of the mail and forwarding it in this form.
The confidential mail is also not end-to-end encrypted. So Google can continue to analyze them, save them permanently and issue them to the authorities if necessary.
Particularly confusing: Even after the specified deletion date, confidential emails remain in their own sent folder. The impression that there is no longer any trace of "confidential" mail after the set deletion date is therefore wrong.
The organization EFF, which campaigns for civil rights on the Internet, criticized the function for these reasons as misleading and dangerous. The function could lull users into a false sense of security instead of using other, really secure e-mail services.
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