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Using Gmail for Business? Don't Expect Privacy

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

If your business uses Gmail, don't expect privacy. In a recent court filing, Google's lawyers made it clear that Gmail users have no "legitimate expectation of privacy" in email they send or receive via Gmail.

Most disconcerting of all, the news comes on the heels of two secure, subscription email services shutting down due to "outside pressures," reports Gizmodo.

Here's what this means for businesses and what you can do about your Gmail privacy:

Google's (Waning) Privacy Policy

According to Google's brief in a class action data-mining lawsuit, users should assume that any electronic communications that wind up on Google's servers can be accessed and used for a range of purposes, including selling ads, reports CNET.

Basically, your emails are being scanned (not by a human -- it's automated) to filter spam and deliver targeted advertising. The scans also help you perform routine tasks like inbox searches. That seems benign enough, right?

But the concern is that a blanket statement proclaiming that you have no expectation of privacy in your Gmail messages whatsoever raises some red flags for the future (*cough* NSA surveillance *cough*) -- and you can't opt out of it, either.

You may be smirking because you know this is a world where Gmail reigns supreme. You don't have privacy -- but you also don't have a meaningful alternative, right? Maybe.

Data Privacy

As a business owner, when your data is transferred over the Internet, data privacy is essential.

The best place to start, in terms of protecting your data from the government, is the Electronic Frontier Foundation's annual "Who Has Your Back?" list. The EFF reviews Internet companies (cloud storage, broadband, social networks and beyond) on a "star" system based on six categories.

You should be happy (or disconcerted...) to know that Gmail came in at a strong five out of six stars. There are other options out there, of course, but it may take some e-elbow grease to find them.

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