Email & Privacy
Life online: We're continually connected and constantly communicating. Moving from desktops to laptops to handheld devices has made it even easier to stay in touch with others. And whether via email, texting, IMing, posting a current status on a social networking site, or other methods, we share a lot of information about ourselves quite freely, feeling a certain sense of privacy on our side of the keyboard or touchscreen.
Though expecting privacy in email is not unreasonable -- every attempt is made to keep email private and secure -- "Brown cannot guarantee the security, privacy or reliability of its email service. All email users, therefore, should exercise extreme caution in using Brown email to communicate confidential or sensitive matters." (excerpted from the University's Email Policy)
With the move to GoogleApps (online email, calendar and documents), the same care should be taken. "One should remember that no email system is completely secure, and privacy in email cannot be assumed. . . If something needs to be totally private, email is perhaps not the best method for storage." (see the GoogleApps FAQ section on privacy for more details)
And while the default setting for GoogleApps is https (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure), a secure protocol that provides authenticated and encrypted communication, it will not protect you from accidentally sending email to the wrong address, responding to a phishing email, or having a weak password cracked and a hacker taking control of your email account.
What can you do to protect yourself?
- Take care when sending email. Do not send confidential information in email. Period. And give the message and the To field a second look before pressing the Send button.
- Develop a nose for sniffing out suspicious email. If it smells phishy, it probably is.
- Beef up your password.
No matter what security protocols may be in place, it's not secure without U and the precautions you take to protect yourself.