Google calls out other tech companies over their lack of encryption

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The volume of email cloaked in encryption technology is rapidly rising as Google, Yahoo, Facebook and other major Internet companies try to shield their users’ online communications from government spies and other snoops. Google and other companies are now automatically encrypting all email, but that doesn’t ensure confidentiality unless the recipients’ email provider also adopts the technology. In an analysis released Tuesday, Google Inc. said that about 65 percent of the messages sent by its Gmail users are encrypted while delivered, meaning the recipient’s email provider also supports the technology. That’s up from 39 percent in December. 

Encryption is like a relationship — both parties need to be on the same page for it to work. And Microsoft and Comcast are apparently not on Google’s page. Google began a campaign Tuesday to raise awareness around encryption, and in the process it reported that less than 1 percent of emails sent during May from Gmail to Comcast.net accounts were encrypted in transit. For Microsoft’s Hotmail service (now called Outlook.com), just over half of emails to and from Google were encrypted. Outlook.com users can enable encryption but, unlike with Gmail, it’s not turned on by default. Google’s figures appear in a new section in its transparency report that aims to give people better information on the security of their email. The use of encryption has gained added attention since last year’s leaks about U.S. government surveillance, prompting more service and software providers to promise customers they’ll keep their data safe. Encryption is meant to scramble messages and other data so it can only be read by the sender and receiver. Google has been encrypting all Gmail messages by default since 2010.

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