Google To Enable End-To-End Email Encryption, Highlight Good Email Security Practices

from the good-to-see dept

Back in December of 2012, we wrote about (and agreed with) Julian Sanchez's suggestion that Google should do end-to-end encryption of emails, even if it (only slightly) mucked with its advertising business model. The impact on overall security would be great (and this was before the Snowden revelations had even come out). As Sanchez pointed out, not only would this (finally) drive more widespread adoption for email encryption, it would create enormous goodwill among privacy advocates. About six weeks ago, we mentioned this again, when it was rumored that Google was trying to make encrypted email easier, though it was said that it wouldn't go "site-wide" on end-to-end encryption.

A new blog post on the Google blog* has now detailed at least some of Google's plans, including offering a new End-to-End Chrome extension that will make it much easier for anyone to send and receive encrypted email messages. This is a big step forward, and hopefully shows how serious Google is about actually encrypting messages, rather than leaving them open for snooping.

This announcement came along with adding a new section to Google's famed transparency report, entirely focused on email encryption in transit, which will hopefully increase the use of Transport Layer Security (TLS) from other email providers out there. In the initial report, Google notes that 65% of outbound messages on Gmail to other providers use TLS, while 50% of inbound messages use TLS (over the last 30 days). And, more importantly, it highlights who supports TLS... and who doesn't (Comcast seems to be a shameful leader on that front). With some transparency, hopefully it will lead more email providers to adopting TLS.

* For the sake of full disclosure, the author of the blog post on Google's site is an old friend of mine, whom I've known for nearly 20 years (I feel old), since long before he worked at Google. I had no idea he was working on this and actually haven't spoken to him in probably a year or two (because life happens). I didn't find out about it from him, but from people talking about it on Twitter.

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  1. icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), 3 Jun 2014 @ 5:45pm


    For it to be end to end my computer would have to create a private key and a public key. The recipient would also have to do the same. No one but me should know my private key (and no one but the recipient should know his/her private key). I should know the recipient's public key (and be able to confirm it through a reliable channel between me and the recipient). I should encrypt the E-Mail with a symmetric key, encrypt the symmetric key with the recipient's public key, and send the encrypted e-mail and encrypted symmetric key to the recipient where the symmetric key gets decrypted on the recipient's computer using his private key and then the symmetric key is used to decrypt the e-mail.

    Is that's what's happening here?

    Yes. From what's being said about the extension, that's exactly what happens. Google never has the private keys.

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